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  1. #1

    Patti LaBelle, the Doyenne of Philadelphia Soul - NY Times Magazine, Part 1

    The NY Times Style magazine has extended profiles (including new interviews and gorgeous photography) of Patti as well as Barbra Streisand and Dolly Parton. Here's a cut-and-paste of Patti's profile -

    At 76, she is the embodiment of success, the personification of warmth and an artist who changed the landscape of American music

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



    PATTI LABELLE’S superpower is a spellbinding scream — a refined shriek, really — that makes hairs stand at attention, bones shiver and spines twist. It was 1975 when I first heard it. I was 10, in my parents’ South Bronx tenement, where the radio station WBLS — offering “the total Black experience in sound,” as the promos said — was always on during our morning rush to school. That’s when it hit me — “Creole Lady Marmalaaaaade,” the last word of those titular lyrics, which debuted the year before, filling the air. My first Patti LaBelle moment. There have been many such moments since — like hearing “Love, Need and Want You” (1983), which I put on the very first slow-jam tape I made as a teen — and with each one, the only logical reaction is to throw up your hands, kick off your shoes and, on occasion, break out in a praise dance.
    Sign Up for the T List Newsletter: A weekly roundup of what the editors of T Magazine are noticing and coveting right now.





    There’s no such thing as a passive response to a Patti LaBelle song — nor should there be. LaBelle came to prominence in the 1970s, a decade that was defined by the greatest generation of divas of soul and gospel music: Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Shirley Caesar, Gladys Knight and Inez Andrews, as well as the relative youngsters Chaka Khan and Natalie Cole. But there was something so relatable about LaBelle, who reminded you of your favorite church soloist or the girl at the high school talent show who could saaang, not just sing. LaBelle has been described as the Godmother of Soul, a master of one of America’s classic art forms, but that moniker ultimately fails to capture the singularity of her musical prowess: Perhaps more than any living performer, LaBelle sits at the intersections of soul and gospel, the former a genre that is indebted to the latter. Gospel is a form of Black religious music that emerged in the 1930s courtesy of Thomas A. Dorsey, the onetime pianist for the blues legend Ma Rainey who also wrote the classic “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” Soul took shape in the 1950s, in large part because of Ray Charles, who added secular lyrics to the melodies of familiar gospel songs, most famously with the track “I Got a Woman” (1954), an early remix of sorts of the Southern Tones’ “It Must Be Jesus.” Many Black churchgoers considered Charles’s music blasphemous, but he opened a portal to a generation of gospel singers like Sam Cooke, Johnnie Taylor and Franklin, who became early stars of the new genre.


    But LaBelle is more than someone who exhibits a mastery of soul and gospel; she is “church,” a style of singing taken from Black Pentecostal and Baptist musical traditions, where gospel music is unfettered by the business of religion and soul is unfettered by expectations of the music industry. LaBelle’s rendition of the ABCs on “Sesame Street” in 1998 is just one example. She begins in a slow, bluesy style, accompanied by a piano, and as a congregation of Muppets joins in, the song is transformed into a sanctified shout, performed with a fervor no one had ever had for the ABCs — and perhaps never will again. It was church.

    IT FELT LIKE the last day of summer on the autumn afternoon that I arrived at LaBelle’s home, just north of Philadelphia — the whir of her family and staff was not unlike that of children during recess. While Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” played in the background at LaBelle’s request, the photographers Deb Willis and Hank Willis Thomas went about the work of capturing a woman who is beyond simple impressions. Watching them made me think of Roy DeCarava’s classic photos of Ornette Coleman, Billie Holiday or John Coltrane, or Malcolm X taking a photo of Muhammad Ali — one of the most photographed Black Americans of the 20th century taking pictures of one of the most photographed Black Americans of the 20th century. In other words: an alignment of Black brilliance and genius.


    At 76, the unwieldy rawness of LaBelle’s youthful instrument has given way to a refined and nuanced power that she summons with the aplomb of a master craftswoman. She’s “truly gotten better,” Dyana Williams, the longtime Philadelphia radio personality and a friend of LaBelle’s, told me. The singer, she added, “has transcended generations and still remained relevant to each generation of music makers.”


    Yet even more significant than her longevity is the context of her staying power. LaBelle is of a generation of Black women who are regularly lauded with the honorific of “auntie” — Auntie Phylicia, Auntie Gladys, Auntie Cicely — a term of affection for women who continue to hold an important place in the culture. These are the women who young Black folks know will always offer support without immediate judgment — who will provide correction and counsel. As I was shown into LaBelle’s living room, the scents of nutmeg and cinnamon hanging in the air — there was peach cobbler in the oven — I realized I was no longer in Patti LaBelle’s home but in any number of aunties’ homes, which I’ve come to expect to smell this way. “Oh my,” I thought to myself, sitting on the couch across from a piano covered with dozens of photographs of close family and friends, including the Clintons and Barack Obama, “I’m in Auntie Patti’s house.” And then she appeared: stunning, regal, beautiful.

    We later moved to her sitting room, where she keeps a selection of her many awards; she has five certified gold records, the platinum-selling “Winner in You” (1986) and two Grammys, earned for her albums “Burnin’” (1991) and “Live! One Night Only” (1998). LaBelle lives by herself, but the assorted family members in the house that day — her two young granddaughters, her son Zuri and his wife (who’s also her personal makeup artist), who all live nearby — were a good indication of how welcoming a space it is: a home, not a way station, an important place for someone who has spent a lifetime on the road (until the recent pandemic, she still toured regularly). “Philadelphia is a place for me to live all my life because it’s quiet enough for me,” LaBelle said of her hometown. “It’s not crazy like New York or L.A. I love Philly. Philly is my home.”



  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    The NY Times Style magazine has extended profiles (including new interviews and gorgeous photography) of Patti as well as Barbra Streisand and Dolly Parton. Here's a cut-and-paste of Patti's profile -

    At 76, she is the embodiment of success, the personification of warmth and an artist who changed the landscape of American music

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



    PATTI LABELLE’S superpower is a spellbinding scream — a refined shriek, really — that makes hairs stand at attention, bones shiver and spines twist. It was 1975 when I first heard it. I was 10, in my parents’ South Bronx tenement, where the radio station WBLS — offering “the total Black experience in sound,” as the promos said — was always on during our morning rush to school. That’s when it hit me — “Creole Lady Marmalaaaaade,” the last word of those titular lyrics, which debuted the year before, filling the air. My first Patti LaBelle moment. There have been many such moments since — like hearing “Love, Need and Want You” (1983), which I put on the very first slow-jam tape I made as a teen — and with each one, the only logical reaction is to throw up your hands, kick off your shoes and, on occasion, break out in a praise dance.
    Sign Up for the T List Newsletter: A weekly roundup of what the editors of T Magazine are noticing and coveting right now.





    There’s no such thing as a passive response to a Patti LaBelle song — nor should there be. LaBelle came to prominence in the 1970s, a decade that was defined by the greatest generation of divas of soul and gospel music: Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Shirley Caesar, Gladys Knight and Inez Andrews, as well as the relative youngsters Chaka Khan and Natalie Cole. But there was something so relatable about LaBelle, who reminded you of your favorite church soloist or the girl at the high school talent show who could saaang, not just sing. LaBelle has been described as the Godmother of Soul, a master of one of America’s classic art forms, but that moniker ultimately fails to capture the singularity of her musical prowess: Perhaps more than any living performer, LaBelle sits at the intersections of soul and gospel, the former a genre that is indebted to the latter. Gospel is a form of Black religious music that emerged in the 1930s courtesy of Thomas A. Dorsey, the onetime pianist for the blues legend Ma Rainey who also wrote the classic “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.” Soul took shape in the 1950s, in large part because of Ray Charles, who added secular lyrics to the melodies of familiar gospel songs, most famously with the track “I Got a Woman” (1954), an early remix of sorts of the Southern Tones’ “It Must Be Jesus.” Many Black churchgoers considered Charles’s music blasphemous, but he opened a portal to a generation of gospel singers like Sam Cooke, Johnnie Taylor and Franklin, who became early stars of the new genre.


    But LaBelle is more than someone who exhibits a mastery of soul and gospel; she is “church,” a style of singing taken from Black Pentecostal and Baptist musical traditions, where gospel music is unfettered by the business of religion and soul is unfettered by expectations of the music industry. LaBelle’s rendition of the ABCs on “Sesame Street” in 1998 is just one example. She begins in a slow, bluesy style, accompanied by a piano, and as a congregation of Muppets joins in, the song is transformed into a sanctified shout, performed with a fervor no one had ever had for the ABCs — and perhaps never will again. It was church.

    IT FELT LIKE the last day of summer on the autumn afternoon that I arrived at LaBelle’s home, just north of Philadelphia — the whir of her family and staff was not unlike that of children during recess. While Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” played in the background at LaBelle’s request, the photographers Deb Willis and Hank Willis Thomas went about the work of capturing a woman who is beyond simple impressions. Watching them made me think of Roy DeCarava’s classic photos of Ornette Coleman, Billie Holiday or John Coltrane, or Malcolm X taking a photo of Muhammad Ali — one of the most photographed Black Americans of the 20th century taking pictures of one of the most photographed Black Americans of the 20th century. In other words: an alignment of Black brilliance and genius.


    At 76, the unwieldy rawness of LaBelle’s youthful instrument has given way to a refined and nuanced power that she summons with the aplomb of a master craftswoman. She’s “truly gotten better,” Dyana Williams, the longtime Philadelphia radio personality and a friend of LaBelle’s, told me. The singer, she added, “has transcended generations and still remained relevant to each generation of music makers.”


    Yet even more significant than her longevity is the context of her staying power. LaBelle is of a generation of Black women who are regularly lauded with the honorific of “auntie” — Auntie Phylicia, Auntie Gladys, Auntie Cicely — a term of affection for women who continue to hold an important place in the culture. These are the women who young Black folks know will always offer support without immediate judgment — who will provide correction and counsel. As I was shown into LaBelle’s living room, the scents of nutmeg and cinnamon hanging in the air — there was peach cobbler in the oven — I realized I was no longer in Patti LaBelle’s home but in any number of aunties’ homes, which I’ve come to expect to smell this way. “Oh my,” I thought to myself, sitting on the couch across from a piano covered with dozens of photographs of close family and friends, including the Clintons and Barack Obama, “I’m in Auntie Patti’s house.” And then she appeared: stunning, regal, beautiful.

    We later moved to her sitting room, where she keeps a selection of her many awards; she has five certified gold records, the platinum-selling “Winner in You” (1986) and two Grammys, earned for her albums “Burnin’” (1991) and “Live! One Night Only” (1998). LaBelle lives by herself, but the assorted family members in the house that day — her two young granddaughters, her son Zuri and his wife (who’s also her personal makeup artist), who all live nearby — were a good indication of how welcoming a space it is: a home, not a way station, an important place for someone who has spent a lifetime on the road (until the recent pandemic, she still toured regularly). “Philadelphia is a place for me to live all my life because it’s quiet enough for me,” LaBelle said of her hometown. “It’s not crazy like New York or L.A. I love Philly. Philly is my home.”


    Many thanks for that. Could you be so kind as to cut and paste the article on Barbra for your old friend please? Thank you in advance!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebrock View Post
    Many thanks for that. Could you be so kind as to cut and paste the article on Barbra for your old friend please? Thank you in advance!
    Certainly! This is just the first third of the Patti profile. The Times outdid themselves with these!

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    Certainly! This is just the first third of the Patti profile. The Times outdid themselves with these!
    Thank you Sir!

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