Patti's Coming Home To Philly Tonight 9/7/14

Discussion in 'News' started by Dennis, Sep 7, 2014.

  1. Dennis Dennis Shook

    That voice, that seemingly sweet, innocent voice, can growl sensually, arch dramatically, and reach towering angelic highs in a heartbeat. When Patti LaBelle begins to speak, there is rich vocalism in every breath, whether she's calling you "honey," or talking about her gospel past with Southwest Philadelphia's Beulah Baptist Church Choir, her soon-to-debut-at-Walmart frozen shrimp-n-lobster macaroni and cheese, her latest tour stop at the Mann Center on Sunday, or her passionate devotion to her hometown through all her 70 years.

    "I feel like I'm 20, though, just like I did when I started out," LaBelle says when asked how it is that her singing voice still has the same command and range, showing no signs of wear or tear. "I do not know what to attribute this to, as one time not so long ago, I thought I had lost my voice, and I was petrified."

    She says she didn't have to do anything in particular to get it back. "I'm blessed. God put me on this Earth to sing, and to be able to sing everything - opera, country, gospel, rock. So I did."

    That includes "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," her first hit with the Bluebelles in 1962 (her feelings about it changed at some point - "I thought it was about trash, but no - it's about drugs").

    That includes working with the late Laura Nyro, with whom she and her trio Labelle (with Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash) recorded 1971's classic Gonna Take a Miracle, and toured Japan. ("Laura took me and my then-husband [Armstead Edwards] there, and on our second night, we conceived our child, Zuri. We had a lot of sake," she says with a giggle. Nyro was the boy's godmother.)

    That includes the glam-rock trio Patti started with Hendryx and Dash, who together scored the smash "Lady Marmalade," and became the first "bunch of black girls who really rocked, rolled, and souled" before LaBelle broke up the trio and returned to deep R&B grooves with her eponymously titled 1977 release for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International Records. Her sound and label carried her through to the mid-'80s, when she slicked it up a bit for such even-bigger smashes as "New Attitude" and "On My Own."

    That solid soul sound and her buds Gamble and Huff were never far from her memory, especially considering her not-so-high opinion of most of the charts' present hits.

    "I'm still close with Kenny and Lee - those songs we did back in the day I'd like to make more of. See, there aren't that many good songs out here today that aren't pure repetition, where every line becomes a saying. It's boring to listen to radio anymore, where you have to hear the title repeated as if you're going to forget it."

    She's recorded an album of tunes "that don't repeat - really nice songs," jazz standards penned by Nina Simone, Shirley Horn, and James Moody, that she'll release late this year or early next. Though she's uncertain whether a major label or her own company will release it, she's pleased to say she chose and produced the sessions with her ex-husband; they divorced in 2003 after more than 30 years of marriage.

    "It's going so good," she says with a laugh. "We get along making music - why shouldn't we do some? We always come together when we're speaking the musical mind."

    Keeping things in the family, LaBelle is quick to give props to her son, Zuri Edwards, for being the best manager she's ever had, someone who puts her concerns and talents before money. "He's smart, calm, and is not going to argue with his mother. He knows better to just let me have my way or I will hurt him. He knows when to walk away."

    Kidding aside, Edwards has a sense of what his mom should and shouldn't do. One current gig both embraced was proposed by Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee and American Horror Story.

    "He saw me on Andy Cohen's talk show on Bravo and wanted to meet me." Why? He wanted to cast LaBelle, no audition required, for his American Horror Story: Freak Show, the FX show's fourth season. "I jumped at the chance, shot two already with three more to go, and I can't tell you nothing about it," she laughs. "Not my character name or arc. Nothing!"

    With all the roles - singer, businesswoman, chef and cookbook author, actress - that LaBelle plays, is Patricia Louise Holt, the name she was born with, still in there, or is it all Patti LaBelle?

    "Honey, it's always been Patti Holt from Jump Street, always will be. Patti LaBelle was a name I was given by my first manager. Patricia Edwards was a name I married into. Patti Holt is here, sweetheart, and she never left."

    Whether Holt, Edwards, or LaBelle, she's always been a Philadelphian, calling Wynnewood home when she's not on the road.

    "You know what I like to say on stage: 'I'm a Philly girl.' There's credibility in that."


    Patti Labelle, with Maze and Ruben Studdard

    7 p.m. Sunday at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave.

    Tickets: $29.75-$150.75. Information: 215-546-7900 or

  2. Dennis Dennis Shook

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