You really can’t contain Patti LaBelle. The once Patricia Holte still snatches the spotlight from those decades younger than her at 72 years of age. The thing is that, rarely has the awe inspiring power of her vocal styling and range ever been captured *properly* during studio recordings. She really has one of those gargantuan big ass voices, similar to Judy Garland, that only comes alive when she has an audience to play off of.
May favorite and first up example is this particularly commanding performance at The Brooklyn Fox Theater in 1965. Her and The Bluebelles were one of the acts featured in the CBS Summer Special Where The Action Is hosted by New York area DJ Murray the K. Though an insipid piece of Broadway schlock in other hands, Patti puts in piece by piece nuance, volume and faith that reaches far beyond the rote message. She builds in mountains and valleys into this performance. Suffice to say, in Patti’s hands, the old tune becomes something magical during the height years of the Post War Civil Rights movement, and remains a part of her repertoire 50 years later.
By the time we reach that 2 minute and 11 second moment, we’re with that one woman in the audience, knowing that we’ve just got all of our fill of spirit and inspiration, yet, we’re greedy, shout that COME ON and we are rewarded with even more goodies, including that gossamer winged sign off by the time Patti, Sarah, Cindy and Nona take their bow.
Two years later on The Beat, we find Patti working her magic actually on a Judy Garland chestnut. It’s easier to compare her studio rendition to this particular unfurled version from the obscure television show. Unrestricted by producers, mixers and studio musicians, we recognize that Patti LaBelle has always been one of our finest actresses that uses song and stage to give us pure theater through songcraft.
In that way, she is a twin spirit, a pure Gemini, like Judy Garland. To the Joy of singing, we wish her the best birthday this Tuesday.