She fronted two groups, Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles, which received success on the pop charts in the 1960s. In September of 1974 Labelle released their landmark album, Nightbirds, which successfully mixed glam rock and soul with funk elements. Their biggest hit, "Lady Marmalade", became their very first number-one hit, and the group went on a successful national tour that started with a rave performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, where they became the first African American contemporary pop group to open there.
Labelle went on to have a solo recording career and released her self-titled debut in 1977 on Epic Records, which featured the top twenty R&B dance single, "It's a Joy to Have Your Love" and the gospel-emulated ballad, "You Are My Friend", which she co-wrote and dedicated to her son and her faith in God (hence the vamp lyric, "I've been looking around and you were here all the time"). Patti's performance of the song helped to make it a stand-out performance and remains a concert staple including the modified gospel hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus".
Patti Labelle followed up with It's Alright with Me, in 1979, Released in 1980 and 1981's The Spirit's in It, which included her now classic solo cover of her old Bluebelles single, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", also failed to chart.
Labelle's first #1 R&B and top fifty pop hit with "If Only You Knew" came in 1983 when she released her first charted hit album, I'm in Love Again. The album became her first solo release to be certified gold. In 1985, Patti recorded two songs for the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. Those two songs - "New Attitude" and "Stir It Up" became pop hits.
Her popularity increased further in 1986 with the release of her best-selling album to date, Winner in You. The album yielded her first solo #1, "On My Own" with pop balladeer Michael McDonald, the Top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hit, "Oh, People," the moderate pop chart hit, "Kiss Away The Pain" and the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart hit, "Something Special Is Gonna Happen Tonight."
In 1991, Patti released the gold-selling Burnin' album, which helped her win her first Grammy Award -- tying with vocalist Lisa Fischer for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. Burnin' featured the hits "Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)", "When You've Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven)" and "Feels Like Another One." This album is also notable because it includes the first Labelle reunion recording with Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, singing on "Release Yourself". Success continued with subsequent albums like 1994's Gems (featuring the hit "The Right Kinda Lover"), 1997's Flame (featuring the hit "When You Talk About Love"), and 1998's Live One Night Only winning her a second Grammy.
In 2000 Patti released When a Woman Loves featuring a collection of ballads written entirely by songwriter Diane Warren. Timeless Journey (2004) saw Patti adding a modern hip-hop flavor to her brand of classic R&B. The album featured the modest hit "A New Day", which became a dance hit and also became her highest-charted album in nearly twenty years reaching number-sixteen on the Billboard 200. Classic Moments followed in 2005.
In 2006, she issued her oft-promised gospel album on an independent label titled The Gospel According To Patti Labelle. The album debuted at #86 on the Billboard 200, #17 on the R&B chart and peaked at #1 on the Gospel chart.
The first co-singles possess sure fire messages within the music. “Anything,” co-written by Patti and longtime collaborator Sami McKinney, produced by Nisan Stewart features gospel duo Mary Mary, producer/lyricist Kanye West and his latest protégé Consequence. With its pulsating drum beat, its inspirational message of being able to accomplish anything as a child of the King resonates. “Where Love Begins” featuring Yolanda Adams is a groovy mid-tempo written by legendary songwriter Denise Rich and co-produced by Troy Taylor and Gordon Chambers. Guitar riffs and hand claps stir the encouraging words “deep from within, because that’s where love begins.”
For Patti her desire for this record is that her fans are aware that this gift is from her heart and deep within her soul. “I want them to take away a beautiful message. I want them to take away a beautiful CD, which means take it home, buy it so that we can help with this cancer calling.” That humility and honesty has been the true gospel according to Patti Labelle. “Staying a person that people can say they encountered and she was very, very giving. She didn’t get Hollywood on us. I never want to be thought of as a Hollywood person, you know the people who don’t have time for the people who made them.”
The 2008 Essential Patti Labelle is a double album that highlights Patti from her best over her big titles from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. The songs have all been restored nicely, and bring in a few nice treats that appeal to longtime Labelle fans. The album includes some very rare treats including some new, never-before released songs as well as standouts from her eras in the music industry. The collection includes her big attitudes like New Attitude, her #1 duet On My Own with Michael McDonald, as well as classic staples like If Only You Knew, Love, Need And Want You. The collection also mainly highlights great songs from her work with Labelle on staples Moon Shadow, and the cult classic Lady Marmalade, and her beginnings with The Bluebelles on gems like Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I Sold My Heart To the Junkman.
There are also some rare gems here featured on this collection as well including a never-before live rendition of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes If You Don't Know Me By Now, and the never-before released Disco dance edition of her song Release.
Patti's biography, Don't Block the Blessings, remained at the top of the The New York Times best-seller list for several weeks.
In June of 2009 Patti Labelle was honored at New York 's Harlem Apollo Theater after she was inducted to the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame by admirers such as pop stars Mariah Carey and Prince. After she was inducted, Labelle said, "The Apollo is a national treasure, I'm overwhelmed and honored to be recognized on this stage."
As the winner of two Grammy Awards and seven N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards (including Entertainer of the Year) Patti Labelle's career has spanned four spectacular decades. From her early years with the Bluebelles in the sixties to the pioneering funk-band Labelle in the seventies to the stellar #1 hits as a solo artist in subsequent years, she has consistently been at the top of her game and she is one of the most beloved and recognized entertainers of our time.