Happy Birthday to #1 Auntie Patti LaBelle
Auntie. It’s a term of endearment used to give respect to your mother’s bestie, the one who’s like a sister — your play aunt. And then there are your cultural aunties, like Patti LaBelle, the musical trailblazer that you wouldn’t dare call by her first name. Your mama raised you better than that.
Aunties are the fiercest defenders, unflappable confidantes and the dopest herstory makers. They are the ones who’ll whip up a savory shrimp étouffée to feed you and a few of your fam from college and belt out voulez-vous coucher avec moi? at a New Year’s Eve cocktail party. Actually, there’s only one auntie who’s just as comfortable in the kitchen making homemade lemon bars as she is performing “Over the Rainbow” in the White House for the Obamas, our forever First Family. Miss Patti is that auntie.
So it’s only right that we break out the virtual flowers and red-heart emojis to celebrate her 75th spin around the sun, especially as the music industry fawns over here today, gone tomorrow singers. Sure, some of the biggest shows will salute your sangin’ auntie with a tribute (please don’t do one without Fantasia), but Patti LaBelle deserves to know that: “Somebody loves you, baby.”
It’s easy to do a résumé check and list all of the things: the records sold (50 million worldwide), the induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame (plus multiple Grammys), the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the recognition by Rolling Stone as one of the 100 greatest vocalist — ever.
But let’s cut to the chase: sonically, Aunt Pat is unfuckwithable. Right?
For the technicians who specialize in musicality and its details, she is a dramatic soprano with multi-octave vocal range. That alone makes her a national treasure. But for you, the fan, the woman born Patricia Louise Holte is integral to the culture because her emotive lyrics have given you the soundtrack for some of life’s sweetest and most difficult moments.
You want bae back? Alexa, play “Kiss Away the Pain” (or “If You Asked Me To”). Is your relationship done, done? Grab the tissues and cue up “On My Own.” Did that last therapy session have you feelin’ yourself? Keep “New Attitude” on repeat (or “There’s a Winner in You”).
Unwittingly, Auntie Patti taught you about longevity (her girl group credits date back to 1959’s the Ordettes) and the art of reinvention (acting, cookbooks, entrepreneurship).
If you loved the Met Gala’s Camp: Notes on Fashion theme (shoot, or any of them for that matter), just know that back in the day Patti and her group the Labelles served plenty of glam rock meets afro futurist ‘fits during their performances. And their No. 1 song, “Lady Marmalade,” made them one of the hottest girls groups of the 1970s. Without it, Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Lil’ Kim and P!nk wouldn’t have covered this hit for 2001’s Moulin Rouge.
Oh, and don’t forget how auntie stole scenes as Adele Wayne, Dwayne Wayne’s overprotective mother on A Different World. And in 2015, her sweet potato pie (with the help of James Wright’s hilarious viral video review) was a Thanksgiving (read: economic) hit for Walmart. Or how you cheered when Auntie Patti, a contestant on Dancing With the Stars, shimmied in a silver number to 50’s “In Da Club.” Now she’s Christian motivational speaker Maxine Patterson on OWN’s Greenleaf. She’s making it hard for other septuagenarians to keep up.
Still, no matter where she pops up next, Patti LaBelle will always be dear to us because she gifted us with the sound of music. Happy 75th birthday, Auntie — and many more.
(Photo credit: E! Entertainment / Contributor – Getty Images)
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