Hip-hop legend Big Daddy Kane is one of the lucky ones, as he has come to know entertainment icon Patti LaBelle. He says they first met via a phone call, when LaBelle wanted him to autograph an 8×10 for her son. Kane says he joked to LaBelle, “Don’t be scaring me like that! I thought you were calling me to do a song or something!” Her response? “Well, boyfriend,” he says, imitating LaBelle, “we can do that, too!” Before long Kane was called to record eventual hit “Feels Like Another One” with LaBelle in Philadelphia, and she’d cooked a special meal for him. “She made fish, collard greens with no pork, macaroni and cheese…it was amazing,” Kane recalls. “We ate, did our vocals, and talked. I was like, ‘Wow, I just hung out with Patti LaBelle!’”
America got to hang out with Patti LaBelle during the historic 20th season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Partnered with dancer Artem Chigvintsev, LaBelle lasted six weeks, receiving ovations from the live studio audience, critics, and fans on social networks. LaBelle returned to Stars for its finale and brought the house down belting “Two Steps Away.” If you believe what’s reported in the news, her performance was the highlight of the entire season. It’s Patti LaBelle though, so of course you believe it.
The Pennsylvania-born powerhouse has been entertaining diverse audiences for five decades. From singing with groups The Bluebelles and Labelle to a distinguished solo career, Patti has remained a draw not simply for her amazing catalog of music and dynamic voice, not only for her astounding film and stage performances, but mostly due to her ability to connect deeply and genuinely with her admirers. To salute the amazing person and performer she is, SoulTrain.com asked an all-star collection of entertainers why Patti LaBelle is so deserving of cross-cultural respect. Here is what each of them had to say!
“First, can we say, longevity? I came up a major fan of Ms. LaBelle, or Mama Patti as I call her. I go back to the ‘LaBelle Days’ for real! They were the funkiest sisters–vocally and style wise. She has been an idol of mine from the first time I heard her voice; and then after LaBelle when she recorded and released ‘Over the Rainbow!’ Woooooo…I was amazed and so very inspired! I would try to emulate what she did vocally, and whenever she was on television and interviews her warmth came through the screen. I got an opportunity to meet her in the studio when she was recording with Full Force, and I also had the honor and privilege to do some background vocals on the songs she did with them. I met her and couldn’t move! She saw my face and just said, ‘Come on over here, child, and give me a hug.’ From that point on she’s been like a musical mama to me.
Ms. Patti is the real deal! Her voice touches those who may not even understand the language. As great as she sounds, what she has made us all feel has been even more the reason we love her. An incredible performer and entertainer, she gives everything she’s got and leaves it all on that stage; and through the years staying relevant, reinventing her self when necessary, all while being and staying true to herself and her gift. That is something any one of us with a dream and passion for the arts can learn from and strive for! So, yes, for those reasons and so many more, Mama Patti is absolutely deserving of cross cultural respect, and she will always have mine! I love you, Mama Patti!” —Cheryl Pepsii Riley
“Patti LaBelle is awesome! When I went to record her in Philadelphia, when I came into the studio she had not arrived yet. I’m nervous, sitting there. Patti LaBelle walks into the studio, she’s fly as ever; she’s got on these bad glasses, these sweet shoes, and a cape. She’s got a bag in her hand that has fried chicken, potato salad, and sweet potato pie…for me! She fed me, then she sang to me. Patti knows how to treat a brother on the first date, and she just knows how to treat people–period.” —Kem
“You don’t do this business 40 plus years at a high level and not deserve across the board recognition. Patti LaBelle is a true professional with class and style from movies to music and everything in between. I remember being backstage at a Patti LaBelle concert at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA. Con Funk Shun was opening and I was there with them; this was prior to me being recognized by anyone for anything. Security was coming through to clear out the backstage area for Ms. Patti. As she was walking through she stopped security and said, ‘Leave these people alone, baby. Everything is fine.’ That day I fell in love with the spirit and humility of Ms. Patti LaBelle. Give her every award you’ve got!” –Jay King of Club Nouveau
“Patti LaBelle is just a beautiful person. She’s that person you meet [who’s] the kind neighbor, the motherly figure, the down to earth person you love to hang out with. She’s a homegirl but she’s a legend. You’d expect to meet a diva or a snob, but when you meet her she’s the kindest and sweetest person in the world.” –Big Daddy Kane
“Patti LaBelle is a top-notch class act, an undeniable superstar who put in the time and paid all of the dues required to become cross-cultural. I’ve watched her from my beginning, being a true fan to working with her. The word ‘deserving’ is such an understatement. Let’s give respect where respect is due.” —Teddy Riley
“Patti LaBelle is a beautiful soul with an amazing voice that transcends cultures, age groups and all of the above! She’s put her imprint on all kinds of music from disco to soft rock. One of my favorite records she recorded was ‘On My Own.’ Her vocal ability is unmatched and her stage presence is that of greatness! Not to mention the many different influences she’s had on fashion and hair styles. Patti Labelle in one word: Longevity. Even now, as an icon/artist she’s still going strong. Patti has shown us through the years what real artistry is and I’m blessed that I got a chance to witness her greatness! She deserves cross-cultural respect for these reasons and many more. She is a gift to the world!” —Donell Jones
“Patti LaBelle is a legend of our times and deserves cross cultural respect because of her iconic voice, legendary riffs, and also her bold style and memorable songs. ‘Lady Marmalade’ became a legendary pop hit. She’s influenced some of the biggest names of our time—Prince, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mya and SWV, just to name a few. She was also known for her bold outfits and memorable stage presence that most of today’s female pop stars still try to emulate—from Jennifer Hudson to Mariah Carey, from Beyoncé all the way to Mary J Blige. If there was ever was a woman deserving of this cross cultural respect, Ms. Patti LaBelle would be that woman!” —Mr Official Whistle, aka Cool V
“The raw emotion Patti LaBelle evokes when she sings is enough to earn my respect as an artist. The ability to be transparent and connect with an audience emotionally transcends race, age, gender and cultures. Her cooking is amazing, too!” —Case
“Patti LaBelle deserves cross cultural respect due that the fact that her music and journey has touched and impacted millions spanning the globe. She has collaborated with many artists of different music genres and age demographics.” —Joey Beanz Little of Rude Boys
“Patti LaBelle deserves all of our respect for her work as an artist, but more than that is how she treats the people that pay her bills: the fans. She treats every single person who crosses her path like family. She is an example that good people do win. Love me some Patti LaBelle.” —Rodney Perry
“Music knows no boundaries, and that’s the beauty of it. Music merges cultures. The infusion of sounds from various parts of the world is always present in everyday music today. Patti LaBelle’s music has such a diverse appeal to it that caters to all music lovers worldwide. It takes a music genius to do that and still be relevant today. Over the years, I’ve grown to listen to various genres of music. Soul music always sticks out due to its ability to reach a vast audience. Patti LaBelle has crafted that sound and when it touches your soul, it hits you in your soul. She has certainly earned my cross cultural respect. On behalf of Africa and music lovers worldwide, I would like to congratulate you on your amazing career, Patti LaBelle.” —DJ Soupa Model
“Of course she deserves respect for her incredible talent, but she earned respect by recreating herself in the ‘70s with Labelle, transcending not only African American music, but positioning herself as an otherworldly talent who was seen as a pop star and gave LaBelle the distinction of being the first African American group on the cover of Rolling Stone. She was and is a visionary.” —Krystle
“To navigate this business and have a successful career that spans close to 40 years is a testament not only to the talent Patti LaBelle is but the type of business woman she is as well. ‘Somebody Loves You Baby’ is still an absolute favorite of mine. Never will we hear a voice like that again, ever. Simply amazing.” —J. Holiday
“Ms. Patti is a blueprint in music on more levels than just what we hear. She paved the way for women in music and created the definition of what we are capable of, while being unapologetically raw and graceful at the same time!” —Algebra
“Patti LaBelle is deserving of cross-cultural respect because she has had such a long career, she has a vocal sound and style that is instantly recognizable as her own, and a real variety of collaborations. My sister Suzanne is her biggest fan, so I have actually been to at least eight Patti LaBelle concerts. She absolutely owns the stage.” —Candice Hoyes
“Patti LaBelle is not only a killer singer, but was so unique and never afraid or hesitated to be different from the rest. She has given me and many others inspiration with her phenomenal voice and style, never toning down or dulling her talent to gimmicks, but always relying on her awesome talent and voice! This is why I love and respect Patti LaBelle. She is one of a kind!” –Coreena
“Patti LaBelle is an incredibly talented music artist whom I deeply admire and respect. She has been in the business for 50 years and I’m so inspired by her journey of creative longevity. She sings in a very powerful and emotive way, and touches the deepest core of my heart and moves me to tears. She is a living legend.” –Tracy Cruz
“Patti…is a multi talented vocalist, entertainer and human being. Her music has spanned all age groups, all racial boundaries, and has touched countries worldwide. She is evergreen, and so is her music. I was a single mother trying to survive raising three boys. The album Nightbirds carried me through some tough times and beyond. I listened to these fabulous strong black women doing what they loved and delivering strength and inspiration to women through their songs. This album should be the national anthem for every woman trying to find their way.” —Zakiya Hooker
“Patti LaBelle’s group Labelle was the first to introduce the concept of all-girl funk soul afro-futurism. They were a group before their time. Artists like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and even Janelle Monáe and Beyoncé owe Patti and Labelle homage when it comes to kick-ass girl power exuded through talented vocals and eclectic image.
Secondly, Patti Labelle is a vocal powerhouse. Whether singing the soul and pop songs she is best known for or killing it on stage as a theatre actor—I was privileged to see her on Broadway in the musical Fela!—she is vocal perfection. I have always thought of her as the Empress of Soul and love everything about her, from her honest personality in interviews and comical turn as an actor to her beautiful high octave range and passionate vocal execution. I adore Patti LaBelle. She deserves every award.” —Khadijah Moon
For more on Patti LaBelle, visit pattilabelle.com.
—Mr. Joe Walker
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, author, entertainment journalist and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and consultant/writer for Liquid Arts & Entertainment’s liquidae.com. Also co-creator of TheGrooveSpot.com, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker, connect with him on Facebook, and also visit his blog ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.