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Wed, 05.24.1944

Patti Labelle, Singer born

Patti Labelle

*On this date in 1944, Patti LaBelle was born.  She is a Black singer and actress. 

Born Patricia Louise Holte, she grew up singing in the Beulah Baptist Church Choir of southwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She was born the second youngest child of Henry and Bertha Holte's three children and the next-to-youngest of five children overall.  Her father was a railroad worker and club performer, and her mother was a domestic. Despite enjoying her childhood, LaBelle would later write in her memoirs, Don't Block the Blessings, that her parents' marriage was abusive. Shortly after her parent's divorce, when LaBelle was twelve, she was sexually molested by a family friend. 

She joined a local church choir at the Beulah Baptist Church at ten and performed her first solo two years later. While she was growing up, she listened to secular music styles such as R&B and jazz music as well.  When she was sixteen, LaBelle won a talent competition at her high school, John Bartram High School. This led to her first singing group, the Ordettes, in 1960, with schoolmates Jean Brown, Yvonne Hogen, and Johnnie Dawson. 

With LaBelle as frontwoman, the group became a local attraction until two of its members left to marry, while another was forced to quit the group by her religious father. In 1962, the Ordettes included three new members, Cindy Birdsong, Sarah Dash, and Nona Hendryx, the latter two girls having sung for another now-defunct vocal group. That year, they auditioned for local record label owner Harold Robinson. Robinson agreed to work with the group after hearing LaBelle sing the song "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman". Initially, Robinson was dismissive of LaBelle, believing her to be "too dark and too plain".  Robinson altered the group's name to "Patti LaBelle and The Blue Belles".

In 1963, the group scored their first hit single with the ballad "Down the Aisle" which became a crossover top 40 hit on the Billboard pop and R&B charts.  Later in the year, they recorded their rendition of the "You'll Never Walk Alone".  In 1965, the group moved to New York and signed with Atlantic Records where they recorded twelve singles for the label, including their rendition of "Over the Rainbow" and a version of the song "Groovy Kind of Love". In 1967, Birdsong left the group to join The Supremes, Vicki Wickham, producer of the UK music show Ready, Steady, Go, agreed to manage the group after Dusty Springfield mentioned signing them. Wickham's first direction for the group was for them to change their name to simply Labelle.  In 1971, the group opened for The Who in several stops on the group's U.S. tour.  

After the group split in 1976, LaBelle began a successful solo career, starting with her critically acclaimed debut album, which included the career-defining song, "You Are My Friend". LaBelle became a mainstream solo star in 1984 following the success of the singles, "If Only You Knew", "New Attitude" and "Stir It Up", with the latter two crossing over to pop audiences and becoming radio staples.  Less than two years later, in 1986, LaBelle scored with the number-one album, Winner in You and the number-one duet single, "On My Own", with Michael McDonald. LaBelle eventually won a 1992 Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her 1991 album, Burnin', followed by a second Grammy win for the live album, Live! One Night Only. Her 1990s albums, Burnin', Gems (1994) and Flame (1997), continued her popularity with young R&B audiences throughout the decade.

Following the release of two mildly receptive solo albums in the early new millennium, she reunited with her Labelle bandmates for the album, Back to Now, followed by a briefly well-received promotional tour. LaBelle's success has extended as an actress with a notable role in the Oscar-nominated film, A Soldier's Story, and in TV shows such as A Different World and American Horror Story: Freak Show. In 1992, LaBelle starred in her own TV sitcom, Out All Night. A decade later, LaBelle hosted her own lifestyle TV show, Living It Up with Patti LaBelle on TV One. In 2015, LaBelle took part in the dance competition, Dancing with the Stars at the age of 70. Labelle has also seen success launching her own brand of bedding, cookbooks, and food for various companies.

In 2015 her Patti's Sweet Potato Pie sold millions when a YouTube video praising the product went viral. As a result, over a 72-hour period, Walmart sold one pie every second.  In a career that has spanned over seven different decades, she has sold more than 50 million records worldwide. LaBelle has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame. LaBelle was included in Rolling Stone on their list of 100 Greatest Singers. LaBelle is a dramatic soprano and is noted for her vocal power, range and emotive delivery.   

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