100 Greatest Singers

95

Patti LaBelle

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Born May 24th, 1944
Key Tracks "On My Own," "If Only You Knew" (solo) "Lady Marmalade" (with LaBelle)
Influenced Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige

Patti LaBelle pushes everything she sings over the top, from her early-Sixties hits with the Bluebelles through her politically minded Seventies records with her space-funk trio, LaBelle — including the French Quarter funk of "Lady Marmalade," from 1975 — to the past few decades' solo albums. She has inspired generations of soul singers — a pre-fame Luther Vandross was the first president of her fan club. Her love of the spotlight is legendary, but she earns it with her astonishing force and control; when LaBelle's voice simmers in its churchy low register, it's usually a sign that she's about to leap up and howl the roof off. "She makes lyrics come alive," says producer Kenny Gamble. "And after all these years of singing, she's hitting notes that some opera stars can't hit."

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