Classics: Patti LaBelle – Music Is My Way Of Life (Epic)
“Music is my way of life…” Hard to think of better words to describe the career of Patti LaBelle. An artist who has spent more than half of a century in the industry… Taking various directions with the same accuracy. From the iconic sexy in yer face ‘Lady Marmalade’ along with her group. To the vibrant ‘On My Own’ which she sung with Michael McDonald. But also ‘New Day’ which Louie Vega remixed for her back in 2004. Not to mention ‘When U Smile’ where she shared the duties with Carlos Santana. A cut which Darryl James also brilliantly reworked the year after.
The groovy ‘Music Is My Way Of Life’ would equally mark a turn on the Lady’s profile back in 1979. It saw her embracing the Disco vibes along with producer Skip Scarborough and John Luongo in charge of the remixing treatment.
Philadelphia, PA-born Patti LaBelle got into singing while at high school. She then became a soloist with the Beulah Baptist Church Choir. While a teenager, she teamed up with Cindy Birdsong in The Ordettes. In the meantime, their friends, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash would be singing in The Del Capris. The two groups went on to merge forces as The Bluebelles to later become Patti Labelle & The Bluebelles, then simply Labelle.
One will most likely remember Labelle for their cover version of ‘Lady Marmalade’ on Epic Records.. A song which first appeared back in 1974, by the likes of Eleventh Hour. It made quite a sensation with its sexually suggestive chorus of “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?”. Some French words which translated into English, give something like as “Do you want to have sex with me (tonight)?” Written by Kenny Nolan and Bob Crewe, it took its inspiration from the latter’s experiences in New Orleans and the sex workers in the area. It didn’t chart though. Crewe suggested it then to Allen Toussaint who decided to record it with Labelle soon after. With the rest being history…
By 1977, Patti LaBelle signed as a solo artist with Epic. She recorded 2 albums – ‘Patti Labelle’ and ‘Tasty’ – before hitting the Disco scene with producer Skip Scarborough. This along with the memorable ‘Music Is My Way Of Life’ from her third LP – ‘It’s Alright With Me’ – for the label. Her 1980 ‘Released’ album marking the end of her liaison with Epic.
Switching to Philadelphia International Records the year after, she gave another timeless illustration of her unique talent. Meanwhile delivering a standout jazzy rendition of the classic ‘Over The Rainbow’ along with Sam Peake on sax and MFSB on strings and horns. One of the definitive highlights from her 1981 ‘The Spirit’s In It’ album. Strangely enough, its title track didn’t get that much attention at the time despite its killer arrangements. With the same happening to ‘I’ll Never, Never Give Up’ from her following album – ‘I’m In Love Again’ the year after.
Patti LaBelle would nevertheless reach the status of a mainstream solo star in 1984 further to the success of the singles, “If Only You Knew”, ‘New Attitude’ and ‘Stir It Up’. Gaining extra following 2 years later with the release of ‘Winner In You’. An album featuring the #1 duet single ‘On My Own’ along with Michael McDonald. She would also collaborate with Grover Washington, Jr. takin’ the lead on The Best Is Yet To Come’, from his 1982 eponymous album. And she also sang a couple of duets with Bobby Womack.
More recently (in 2004), she had a couple of gems – ‘More Than Material’ and ‘New Day’ – which both received the remixing treatment of House heads. With the first by the likes of Darryl James and Fred McFarlane. And the second courtesy of Louie Vega among others. Not to mention ‘When You Smile’ along with Carlos Santana. A song which resurfaced the year after Fall Out Records, as brilliantly remixed here as well by Darryl James and Fred McFarlane.