Patti LaBelle’s Playlist

Jan 26, 2009 6:14pm

Friday on "Nightline" we heard from Patti LaBelle, the woman who gave America a lesson in French with the hit single, "Lady  Marmalade."

LaBelle told us that she’s an "analog girl in a digital world." She doesn’t own a cell phone and has an iPod but doesn’t know how to turn it on.

"It’s got about 6,000 songs on it, I said I’ve only heard about 100 because it stopped it, and I don’t know how to get it back," she said. "Oprah admitted that she…she didn’t know anything about computers years ago, she said that and I said I love her for that."

LaBelle began her singing in church.  She was so shy as a little girl that often times her mother would give her a quarter as incentive to go and play with the other kids.

"My mother wanted me to join the choir, and I did,"  LaBelle told "Nightline" at the Empire Hotel Rooftop Bar in New York City.  "My choir director heard my voice and said, ‘You are not going to sing back here, we are going to put you in front. My first solo I sang was ‘We Have a Friend in Jesus.’  And the audience stood up.  And that’s when I knew I could go on as a solo performer."

For more than 30 years, LaBelle has been topping the charts and has written her own cookbooks, has her own line of wigs and has just released a reunion album.  We spoke to her about the music that has influenced her over the years. 

Moody’s Mood for Love, James Moody


"My first musical memory was James Moody," she said. "I had a half brother who lived with me before he passed and he would play all of this jazz music and all of this wonderful music.  And I loved the way everybody sang, what they did…those songs are the first songs I listened to as a child.  And at the time I didn’t know I was a jazz buff.  But I guess I was, huh?"

Ain’t No Way, Aretha Franklin

LaBelle was born in 1944 in Philadelphia and was one of five children.  She and her sisters would listen to Aretha Franklin’s "Ain’t No Way" when they were growing up.

"We all just listened to this song and cried, my sisters were going through different relationships at the time.  All my sisters died of cancer before they turned 44.  And I sang it on stage, I recorded it with Mary J. Blige, about five years ago and that’s one of my staple songs.  The song means, ain’t no way, if you don’t love me.  So it means give it up,"  LaBelle said. "Don’t try to make someone love you."

Imagine, John Lennon

In discussing the mood of the country after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, LaBelle said that John Lennon’s song "Imagine" comes to mind. 

"I used to do ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon," she said.  "Imagine living life in peace.  When the president was sworn in, and I was like, imagine this:  And it happened that we have our first black president.  Martin Luther King said he always knew what’d happen.  And imagine now all of the people in America and outside, they are all feeling a lift from this man, like he is lifting the script. And that’s what ‘Imagine’ means to me."

Patti LaBelle, Lady Marmalade

In 1974 the group LaBelle recorded the smash hit single Lady Marmalade and according to LaBelle herself, it’s the one song she can’t stop performing.

"I still do that song," she said. "So that song is one of those songs I can never not do."

Mariah Carey, Hero

Not only is LaBelle Mariah Carey’s godmother, she’s also a big fan of her powerful voice.   

"Mariah Carey can sing her face off.  And when she sings ‘Hero,’ I try to sing along with her, literally try. She just has the most phenomenal voice," LaBelle said. "Smetimes you don’t know the heroes are around you and they really are and someday you might recognize them. That’s what it means to me.  So many heroes and she-roes, like the gentleman who flew the plane the other day, what a hero, and landed that plane and nothing was wrong with anyone….if I get a chance to meet him, he’s going to hear ‘Hero,’ I’m going to sing it to him."

Gold Digger, Kanye West

Many Patti LaBelle fans might expect that she listens to the music of Josh Groban and James Blunt, but but few may know that she has a soft spot for the musical stylings of artists like Kanye West, Tupac and 50 Cent.

"Gold Digger, by Kanye West, and uh, Jamie Fox, one of my favorites," she said. 

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