Patti LaBelle was born Patricia Louise Holte in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 23, 1944. LaBelle began singing in her church chior at just 10 and sung her first solo at the Beulah Baptist Church at twelve. LaBelle got her first break in the music industry as part ofThe Ordettes, which she had formed in 1958 with three of her friends. The group members changed, but in 1961, they met Netown Records president Harold Robinson. Robinson signed the group and renamed them The Bluebelles.
The groups first hit single was, “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman.” After some controversy over the single and their name, the group was signed to Atlantic Records for a short time. In 1970, the group changed their name to Labelle and signed with Track Records. Although the group struggled to win mainstream success, they became the first pop group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 1975. The group break up in 1976.
LaBelle released her first solo album in 1977 through Epic. The self titled album was a critical success and produced multiple successful singles. Despite her initial success, her next three albums failed to generate the same appeal. LaBelle eventually turned to performing on Broadway, but she was unable to wow critics. In 1982, she had her first top-20 R&B hit for the Grover Washington ballad “The Best Is Yet To Come.” She also won a Grammy nomination for the song in 1983.
Her first song to reach No. 1 on the Hot R&B Singles chart was, “If Only You Knew.” It was also her first charted hit on the Billboard Hot 100 as a solo artist. Not long after, LaBelle appeared in her first film A Soldier’s Story. The year 1985 saw her give multiple performances that wowed audiences and generated some controversy. The performances boosted her mainstream popularity and helped her eighth album Winner in You peak at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album went platinum and remains her best selling album. LaBelle has gone on to produce several more recordings and also continued acting.
LaBelle’s influence includes being one of the pioneers of the disco movement and being an influencing factor to generations of soul singers including Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Luther Vandross. She will always be known as the “Godmother of Soul,” and the “Queen of Rock n Soul.” The following video is a biography of LaBelle’s life that follows the many ups and downs she faced on her road to stardom.