Today 11:40 AM

A Love Like Yours - Kim Weston

I recently was listening to my KW Greatest Hits & Rare Classics. There was a song on there that I had forgotten about, A Love Like Yours. I checked and the earlier one was naturally by Martha & the Vandellas and Kim's was released about three years later.

Kim did an outstanding job on A Love Like Yours. It is within striking distance of the Vandellas version. There are some other good characteristics about Kim's version.

What do others think about this selection?

Ironically, I also have her 2-CD set The Motown Anthology consisting of 48 songs, but A Love Like Yours is NOT included in this collection. I guess I did not fully appreciate Kim as I have other artists, but after listening to the Greatest Hits and Rare Classics, I changed my mind and am more and more convinced that they did not fully develop her into the superstar they could.
Today 12:43 PM

Patti LaBelle, the Doyenne of Philadelphia Soul - NY Times Magazine, The Photographs

Photographs by Hank Willis Thomas and Deb Willis
Sorry - 'coming soon' !
Today 12:40 PM

Patti LaBelle, the Doyenne of Philadelphia Soul - NY Times Magazine, Part 4

By Mark Anthony Neal
Photographs by Hank Willis Thomas and Deb Willis
Styled by Alex Harrington

Though LaBelle has written songs, she is at heart a stylist, someone who is as known for the songs that were written for her as she is for personalizing songs that were recorded by others. And while there have been many great stylists in the soul and R&B traditions — Nancy Wilson made a career out of it — no one takes ownership quite the way LaBelle does. “You’ve got to be careful what you cover,” LaBelle said, noting some of the songs she wanted to sing over the years but decided not to, like Phyllis Hyman’s “Old Friend.” But then there’s “If You Don’t Know Me by Now.” First recorded in 1972, it was a major pop hit for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes — Pendergrass sang lead — yet it is the best example of a song LaBelle made her own. On the live 1982 recording, she initially sings it straight, but beginning with the first chorus, she extends the notes — hitting some before and some shortly after they’re expected, and shimmying on others. It is classic soul singing, but it is LaBelle’s range and her ability to personalize the lyrics that take the song elsewhere. Midway through, she breaks into conversation with the audience. She’s letting listeners in, teaching them the lessons of life. The call and response of the exchange is wisdom imparted and messages delivered. With performances like these, LaBelle earned her reputation as a diva — a term she dismissed, saying, “I’m a round-the-way girl from Philly. I’m not a diva.”

IT WAS AN auntie showcase this past September when LaBelle and Gladys Knight sat down to do “Verzuz,” a virtual artist battle, conceived by the producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland and launched on Instagram in the early months of the pandemic. “Verzuz” quickly became a reprieve from Covid-19 lockdown fatigue and a lifeline for artists who couldn’t tour and audiences who weren’t able to gather — “It was like doing a concert because I hadn’t worked in seven months onstage,” LaBelle said. Though artists initially appeared remotely, LaBelle and Knight chose to appear together on a soundstage in Philadelphia.

Generations of viewers were drawn to the “Verzuz” episode with these veterans of soul; it was as if they were sitting across from us at the kitchen table, where so many aunties share secrets. The two dished on lost loves, and peers they would rather not talk about, or to; they knew the words to each other’s songs, and even invited another auntie, Dionne Warwick, onstage to join them in a rendition of “Superwoman,” a song they first recorded for a Knight album 30 years earlier. “We have so much great history. We’re the O.G.s. The real girls,” LaBelle recalled of her friendship with Knight of more than 50 years, dating back to their days on the chitlin’ circuit and through moments of tragedy, including the deaths of LaBelle’s three sisters and Knight’s son. “It was a blessing,” she said.
“A Philly girl,” she called herself, and yet she’s everywhere now. LaBelle turned to acting in 1984, with her performance as Big Mary in “A Soldier’s Story,” followed by her memorable role as Adele Wayne on the hit television show “A Different World” (1987-93), and in 2015, she appeared on “Dancing With the Stars.” In 1999, she expanded into cookbooks — with recipes like Aunt Hattie’s Scrumptious Sweet Tater Bread and Say-My-Name Smothered Chicken and Gravy — and a line of cakes, pastries and frozen foods called Patti’s Good Life, which is sold at Walmart. “She’s entrepreneurial in the most amazing way,” Dyana Williams said. “Not very many artists get to do what she’s doing at this age and stage of their careers.”

LaBelle’s has been a life joyfully lived. “I’m so happy to be the Black woman with the good food,” she said, and it was clear she meant it. And with that, she sent me on my way with a plate of her peach cobbler, just as so many of America’s aunties would have.

Hair: David Lamar. Makeup: Lona Azami. Manicure: Amanda Nguyen. Production: Prod’n. Digital tech: Willy Lukaitis. Tailoring: Hailey Desjardins. Set assistant: Todd Knopke. Stylist’s assistant: Sidney Munch
Today 12:38 PM

Patti LaBelle, the Doyenne of Philadelphia Soul - NY Times Magazine, Part 3

By Mark Anthony Neal
Photographs by Hank Willis Thomas and Deb Willis
Styled by Alex Harrington

During their early years, the Bluebelles, like many of their peers, made their living on the so-called chitlin’ circuit, a network of clubs and theaters primarily in the eastern and Southern parts of the United States that catered to Black artists and audiences throughout much of the 20th century. Chitlins, short for chitterlings, was a Black American delicacy derived from scraps — pigs’ intestines — so the chitlin’ circuit was a metaphor for the leftover opportunities granted to Black performers in segregated America. Yet it was also a story of resilience, as theaters like the Fox in Detroit, the Howard in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia’s own Uptown and, most famously, New York’s Apollo became incubators for Black music. “I’m happy we had a chitlin’ circuit,” LaBelle told me. “It makes me be a better me.” Those things that have made her better included cross-country drives, because the group couldn’t afford airfare, or surviving on a paltry per diem by buying candy bars, cans of tuna and 10-cent sardines. “I have a pantry full of sardines and tuna,” LaBelle half-joked, noting, “That’s what I had yesterday, a nice tuna sandwich, and sardines the other night.” She grinned. “Our good Black was good,” she said, again referring to the circuit — a reminder that Black Americans had long ago established their own criteria of cultural affirmation.

But not everything on the chitlin’ circuit was “good.” It was on one such tour that the singer Jackie Wilson attempted to rape her, as LaBelle recounts in her memoir. Such stories about life on the R&B circuit, or the “Rough and Black” circuit, as the fictional character James (Thunder) Early describes it in the film “Dreamgirls” (2006), rated very little attention in the 1960s. LaBelle’s willingness to share her story about Wilson, who was revered by audiences and whose legendary stage performances were an inspiration for a young Michael Jackson, was especially brave at the time — 20 years before #MeToo — and highlighted the precarious position of being a young woman, in particular a young Black woman, in the record industry.

Such experiences inspired the music that the group recorded in the 1970s, as women who were taking control of their image, their bodies and their sexuality. When the Bluebelles transformed into Labelle in 1971, they also redefined the very idea of the girl group. Absent were the bouffants and Bob Mackie gowns that the Supremes made so famous. As the scholar Maureen Mahon writes in her book “Black Diamond Queens” (2020), Labelle instead emphasized “individual voices and personalities in vocals, clothing and onstage style.” Girl groups? No, Labelle was about grown-ass Black women who were “bold, brash [and] brazen,” which is how the group’s manager Victoria Wickham imagined them. As LaBelle recalls in her memoir, Wickham believed the trio would be revolutionary: “Three Black women singing about racism, sexism and eroticism.” On their first albums they covered signature songs from the Rolling Stones (“Wild Horses”), Gil Scott-Heron (“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”), the Who (“Won’t Get Fooled Again”) and Cat Stevens (“Moonshadow”), forcing themselves into a domain dominated by male performers. As Mahon notes, Labelle’s “rebellious performance stances, frank engagement with sexuality and adventurous, high-energy music positioned the group to take a place on the rock stage.” And indeed, their styles, which seemed inspired by the Afrofuturism of Sun Ra — metallic headgear, midriff tops, skintight bottoms, short skirts and full-length boots — were a blueprint for more popular Black acts at the time like Earth, Wind & Fire and Parliament-Funkadelic.

It was during this period that LaBelle married her longtime friend and future manager Armstead Edwards, in 1969, giving birth to their son Zuri in 1973. (The couple would later adopt four more children: Stayce and William, LaBelle’s niece and nephew, whom she took in after her sister Jackie’s death in 1989; and Stanley and Dodd, her neighbor’s children, whose mother had also died.) But marriage and motherhood didn’t keep LaBelle from her music. The trio’s biggest success, the now-iconic “Lady Marmalade,” came only a year after her son’s birth, with a New Orleans-style swagger that struts like a drunken sailor intent on satiating his desires, if only for the night: “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” That these desires are being expressed by three women, breaking some unspoken social contract of decorum, is what made the song so provocative — and an inspiration for women in the burgeoning days of the feminist movement.

THE GROUP BROKE UP in 1976, and LaBelle emerged as a breakout R&B singer; since her 1977 solo debut, she’s recorded 23 albums. If there’s something that could be called a definitive Patti LaBelle album, it’s “I’m in Love Again” (1983), which produced one of her most successful songs to date as a solo artist, “If Only You Knew.” Just as LaBelle says that she knows a Philly song when she hears it, audiences know this is a Patti LaBelle song. “If Only You Knew” is a slow, slow burn — a certified slow drag, as folks would’ve called it a generation earlier, during those blue-lights-in-the-basement house parties that LaBelle would have come of age attending. At its start, LaBelle sings, “I must have rehearsed my lines / A thousand times” with a level of restraint that betrays what audiences had come to expect from her. But it’s a setup: She lulls her listeners — the lyrics rendered as gentle coos and soft murmurs — until the sudden release, when the song turns into what can only be described as fits of ecstasy.

“Patti LaBelle is a balladeer. I love ballads,” she told me. Among her signatures are “Somebody Loves You” (1991) and “If You Ask Me To,” a song that made a minor ripple when she first recorded it in 1989 but became a major pop hit when Celine Dion covered it three years later, using the same arrangements, as LaBelle noted. Though she also admitted, “She sang so good, and we’re friends, so I said, ‘I’m happy you did it.’” The pace of ballads allows LaBelle to explore a range of emotion that, when mapped onto feelings of desire, betrayal and even eroticism, speaks so palpably to the lives of everyday folk: Ballads are the comfort food of soul music — melodies that stick to the bones, sustenance for working-class communities whose very humanity is challenged on a daily basis. When LaBelle sings “Somebody Loves You,” it is a reminder that their lives matter.


Ralph Terrana

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