Grammy Award-winning vocal artist Patti LaBelle, also known as the Godmother of Soul, has a full catalog of bestsellers. Some of them have even hit the top of the pop charts. But the first time a hit record she was credited with creating debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 24, 1962, it was for a song she and her group the Blue Belles hadn't even recorded. In fact LaBelle and the Blue Belles had not yet recorded anything.
The song, "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," which reached the number 15 spot on the Hot 100 and number 13 on the Billboard R&B charts, was actually recorded by a group called the Starlets. LaBelle and her group did make it onto the charts twice in the next two years.
LaBelle was born Patricia Holte on May 24, 1944, in Philadelphia. She and her fellow Blue Belles gained national attention for their performances at the famed Apollo Theater and earned the moniker "Apollo Sweethearts." Early hits included "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
After releasing several albums that didn't capture listeners' attention as much as they'd hoped, the group, then called LaBelle, released in 1974 the album Nightbirds, which included the number-one hit "Lady Marmalade." They also stood out among other acts because of their penchant for bizarre costumes and hairstyles. As Oprah Winfrey once said, LaBelle was the original Lady Gaga.
It was so successful that they became the first group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House and the first Black vocal group to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. However, they disbanded in 1977.
That same year, LaBelle released her first solo album and in 1982 she received her first solo Grammy Award nomination. She received her first Grammy in 1991 with the album Burnin' and two years later was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
LaBelle also has been a successful author and has appeared on stage and film and on television.
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
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