Throwback: Black History Month: Patti LaBelle

It’s the first day of Black History Month. I tend to use this time as a way to remind readers – and everyone else of a couple of important facts:

  • You can’t love Black artists and their work, and not see them as people
  • Black lives — and Black art matters
  • Black culture is American culture

So as we go through the month, I’m going to talk about a collection of Black artists. It’ll be fairly comprehensive and eclectic list — although it won’t be a complete list. This year, the first artist I want to talk about is the legendary Patti LaBelle, arguably one of the most unique and powerhouse vocals ever.

LaBelle started her career in the early 60s as the frontwoman of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. Following the group’s name chance to Labelle in the 70s, they released their #1 hit “Lady Marmalade,” a song that has since been covered a number of times, including famously a version featuring Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink and Lil’ Kim, which was recorded for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack — and also was a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks.

After Labelle split up in 1976, LaBelle started a wildly successful and influential solo career with her critically applauded debut album. Since then she’s received 13 Grammy nominations with two Grammy Award wins — in 1994 for Best R&B Vocal Performance for Burnin’ and in 1999 for Best Traditional R&B Performance for Live! One Night Only. (Only two Grammys? What the fuck is wrong with these people? Jesus Christ, y’all! How is that possible? Seriously, how?)

Over a more than seven decade career, LaBelle has sold over 50 million records globally. She’s been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame, and the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame. Her influence on pop and R&B is towering — and it shouldn’t be surprising.