BY SUSAN WHITALL
Philadelphia’s own Patti LaBelle, 67, has been making music since the 1950s, when the Bartram High School student led several groups before forming Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles (credited with the 1962 hit “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman”).
Stalwarts of the chitlin’ circuit, the Blue Belles made their mark in the girl group era with a high-energy live act and LaBelle’s strong vocals. After a 16-year run on the pop side of R&B, the group made an abrupt turn in 1970 and became glitter rockers “LaBelle,” known for their silver space oddity costumes and edgy hits like “Lady Marmalade.” After LaBelle went solo in 1977, she took another creative turn, racking up soft rock/R&B hits like “If Only You Knew”, duets such as “On My Own” (with Michael McDonald) and movie songs (“New Attitude”). She reunited temporarily with LaBelle’s Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash in 2008 for an album, “Back to Now.”
After a long marriage to Armistead Edwards, her manager of 30 years, Patti was divorced in 2000, and is currently single. Although there have been reports of diva behavior lately — some alleged rough behavior by her bodyguards, for one — LaBelle’s fans flock to her appearances, which included a limited run recently in the Broadway musical FELA!.
In recent years, LaBelle has become an entrepreneur, producing a line of spices and hot sauces and several cookbooks and cooking DVDs, available at her website “World of LaBelle.”
How’s your health? With a history of cancer in your family, and all three of your sisters having passed on, it’s obviously a concern to you .
I’m doing really good and my health is great! My three sisters passed away from cancer, but my mother actually passed from diabetes complications. So, of course, taking care of my health is very important to me, and also being grateful for each and every day.
Do you have any new cookbooks in the pipeline?
My latest cookbook is called “Recipes for the Good Life” and it includes both healthy and “feel good” dishes. I also have a new line of food products out called Lady Marmalade. The line features hot sauces, barbecue sauces, marinades and spices. They are low-sodium and made with all-natural ingredients, so they’re nutritious but also delicious. And they will help you to make quick and easy meals at home! You can check those out at PattiLaBelle.com and they’re available at various grocers across the country.
Are you on any special diet?
I’m not on any sort of new regimen, I just am conscious about what I eat. I exercise at home in my pool and I stay busy. Being active keeps me healthy and energized.
Aretha Franklin is working on a film about her life. Would you want a film done on your life, and if so, who could play you ?
I guess I would want to have a film done on my life … that would be nice and a huge honor! I’m not really sure who I would want to play me, though. Jennifer Hudson might be a good choice.
Do you have any plans to return to Broadway ?
I’ve been asked to return since doing FELA! and I’d love to go back, but it will have to be the right fit. I’ll have to really feel it!
Are there any Detroit or Motown friends with whom you’re particularly close, or special memories of playing here?
I have so many good friends in Detroit, so I don’t want to name just one or two. But, I will say that one of my best memories is when I was on tour with (comedian) Richard Pryor and he took me to a car dealership here and bought me a Cadillac. He told me that it was to say thank you for all of my hard work out on the road. Richard was such a generous and kind person!
Are you dating, or happy to be on your own?
No, I’m not dating. I’m not that lucky yet!