Patti LaBelle is an American singer and actress. She fronted two groups, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, which received minor success on the pop charts in the 1960s, and Labelle, which received acclaim and a mainstream breakthrough in 1974 with their song “Lady Marmalade”. She went on to have a solo recording career, earning another U.S. #1 single in 1986 with “On My Own”, a duet with Michael McDonald.
She is renowned for her passionate stage performances, wide vocal range and distinctive high-octave belting. Her biography, Don’t Block the Blessings, remained at the top of The New York Times best-seller list for several weeks. She has reportedly sold over 50 million records worldwide. LaBelle has been called the Godmother of Soul, the High Priestess of Good Vibrations and the Queen Of Rock & Soul.
LaBelle was born Patricia Louise Holt in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Henry Holte, a railroad worker, and Bertha Robinson Holte, a housewife. The third of four sisters, Holte began singing at church at an earlier age. Though Holt enjoyed a happy childhood, she would later recount in her autobiography that she was sexually molested as a child. When Holt was twelve, her parents split up. Holte attended John Bartram High School in Philadelphia. During an audition for a school play, a teacher advised Holt to form a singing group.
Holte, who was nicknamed “Patsy” by friends and family, formed her first girl group called the Ordettes in 1959. In 1960, when two of the original Ordettes left, Holte and fellow Ordette Sundray Tucker brought in singers Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, from a recently defunct rival group, the Del Capris. When Tucker’s family made Sandra leave the group, she was replaced by hometown friend Cindy Birdsong. With her mother’s blessings, Patti left high school to tour with the Ordettes. The group was managed by Bernard Montague and toured from local nightclubs to honky tonks and truck stops in the Philadelphia area.