Soul legend Patti LaBelle has sold more than 50 million records, won multiple Grammy and NAACP Image awards, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and been inducted into several musical halls of fame. She’s even a notable cookbook author and unofficial Queen of Sweet Potato Pie… according to James Wright Chanel.
LaBelle has been singing since the 1960s when she was the lead singer of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. The band later changed its name to LaBelle and recorded the iconic disco track “Lady Marmalade.”
As a solo singer, Patti is best known for her hit singles “New Attitude,” “If Only You Knew” and “On My Own,” a timeless duet with Michael McDonald.
LaBelle, who is set headline the annual N.C. A&T Alumni Homecoming Concert this fall sat for a chat with Pride Source and dished on everything from passing up songs, the rumored rivalry with Aretha Franklin and why she won’t call herself a ‘diva.’
Check out excerpts from the interview below.
Pride Source: I don’t know if he was gay, but in Vancouver last year, a fan got frisky on your stage and…
Patti: Showed me his ass?
Is that what he did?
Yeah! He mooned me! Because he came up and I was looking at him through the whole show and I said, “Oh, he’s an enthusiastic fan,” right? I try to look at the people that I’m gonna bring up, so I brought him up thinkin’ he was cool. He did his little shake and then turned around and pulled his pants down. I had on high pumps. I kicked that ass.
You even called him a “b****.”
I did! I did use a curse word. And I felt so bad. He took me to that limit. I said, “How could he take me there?” And they had it on TMZ or whatever. I said, “It’s true.” Gotta protect myself. (Laughs)
Three years ago you told me you don’t call yourself a diva because “all these little heifers who can’t sing are called divas.” But then, after that interview, you did VH1’s “Divas Holiday: Unsilent Night” last year and then “Daytime Divas” this year. Now, Ms. Patti, I feel like you’re sending me mixed signals here.
(Laughs) No – no, mixed signals! If I do “Daytime Divas,” which I did, and if I did “Divas” the concert, of course, I’m gonna be in it, but I’m not saying, “I’m a diva.” People look to me and may see me as a diva and that’s a compliment to those who think it’s a compliment. Like I said, Lena Horne and Dinah Washington and all those beautiful dolls back in the day, they were divas. These little divettes walking around – I don’t wanna put myself in the same sentence with some of these little kids. So, I’m not a diva; just a singin’ fool.
Do you pay attention to the memes and GIFs of you throwing shade that people love to share on the internet?
Yeah, I see them. And you know what, I’m honored! (Laughs) And whenever I see something that’s not totally positive about me, I say, “God, at least they thought about me.” It’s really the way to look at these situations. But at the end of the day, I know who I really am… and that’s a cool chick! (Laughs)
What does it mean to you to be able to “really, really sing”?
Someone who can sing without someone in the studio tweaking what they just sang because it was so flat or whatever. Sing straight out in the studio, record without all those little gimmicks. Some of them are lucky because they end up selling a lot of music, but a singer is a person who goes out there and throws down. Just get on a microphone and sing. Phyllis Hyman was that girl.
Would you still regard a “singer” as someone who can throw down in the studio but lip-syncs live?
Oh, a lot of them lip-sync. But they lip-synch and they do it so well you can’t tell that they’re doing it. But I can always tell. I can always tell. I’ve never done that.
What gives them away?
Their mouths sometimes miss the movement! (Laughs) Your mouth should be making a certain movement when you sing a certain note, and they miss sometimes. But that’s what they do for a living. I don’t do that.
(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP & Walter McBride/WM Photography/Retna Ltd.)
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