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Patti LaBelle is an African American singer and actress who has been called the Godmother of Soul. She is best known for her numbers #1 hits.
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A shy girl, Patricia gained confidence through her singing, which she did every Sunday in the choir of Beulah Baptist Church in southwest Philadelphia. As a teenager, she began singing secular music with friend, Cindy Birdsong. The duo formed the Ordettes in 1959 and, a year later, signed on two more friends, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. As the group experienced increasing success, Patricia's parents allowed her to leave high school with her friends in order to go on tour.
The Ordettes, with Patricia as the lead vocalist, signed with Newtown Records in 1961. The company changed the group's name to The Bluebelles, from which Patti took her new stage name, LaBelle, French for "The Beautiful." In their first year at Newtown, they recorded their debut single "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman." The song became an instant gold record and a No. 1 hit.
Diana Ross and the Supremes. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the BlueBelles tried to pull out of their musical slump.
In 1970, unable to recreate their early success, the BlueBelles were dropped from their label and abandoned by their managers. Patti turned to promoter Vicki Wickham for help with their antiquated image. Under Wickham's management, the group changed their name to the edgier "LaBelle," altered their fashion to reflect the 70s glam rock era, and pushed the limits with their lyrics and music. After releasing several albums on the Warner Bros. label, their 1974 release Nightbirds finally caught on with listeners. The first single off the album, "Lady Marmalade," about a seductress in New Orleans, became the group's first No. 1 hit in 12 years.
Rolling Stone magazine. Yet, underneath the success, there was a layer of tension within the group over musical direction.
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