by John Tarpley
Anyone would be hard pressed to name more than a handful of R&B singers with careers as active and downright long-lasting as the Creole Lady Marmalade. Since first stepping into the studio, Patti LaBelle has belted her way through church choirs, girl bands, doo-wop groups, feathery space funk, '80s R&B, quiet storm, a duet with Big Daddy Kane, gospel — you name it. Heck, she consistently stole the show from The Who while they toured together in the early '70s. The erratic topography of her 50-year career pretty much tells the story of the diva since the term "diva" was minted. But she's remembered most fondly for her '80s output: synthy anthems like "New Attitude" and "On My Own," her duet with all-time yacht rock captain, Michael McDonald. Now, she's 66 — and the first person to tell you she's 66 — and still strutting and belting out Philly soul like women a third of her age. Longevity is one thing, but consistency is a whole other game. And it's one that LaBelle is setting the pace for.
Thursday night, the Wally Allen Ballroom gets treated to her "Vegas revue." Expect a career-spanning retrospective with all the hits; hope for her to revisit that crazy cover of Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" she did as a b-side back in 1972.
Check it out: "Purple Rain" (Prince cover, live at the 2010 BET Awards)