LaBelle fires away at stupid anti-gay “‘American Idol’ singers, Bush’s marriage amendment and phony ministers
Patti LaBelle doesn’t mind repeating herself. And not just when it comes to recording an album’s worth of pop and rock tunes, like she did on last year’s “Classic Moments.” Over the years, the two-time Grammy winner behind hits like “Lady Marmalade” and “If You Asked Me To” has been happy to speak out for gay rights. And during a recent telephone interview, LaBelle is still hammering away.
With a new album of inspiration tunes, “The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle” featuring guest turns from CeCe Winans, Winona Judd and Kanye West the 62-year-old legend is as feisty as ever. And she’s hitting the road, playing the Nokia Theatre on Sunday night.
Currently filming a role as a cancer patient in a Lifetime movie, LaBelle took time out to discuss gay rights, the current state of black soul and visiting L’il Kim in the clink.
What made you decide to do the gospel thing?
I’ve been doing it for the last 15 years in my mind. It was something I needed to do that I always couldn’t for some reason or another. My music director, who died of cancer some months ago, we started it together. He helped me decide that it’s now or never. And all the proceeds are going to cancer research.
What will you perform during this round of concert engagements?
Whatever songs I think can stick in the one-and-a-half hours. I wish they allowed me three hours so I can do most of the songs that the fans want to hear.
Did you attend your friend Elton John’s wedding?
He invited me, but I couldn’t go. I heard it was beautiful. They said you have to come to the wedding, and I said I would. They sent me the invitation, but that day was taken so I couldn’t go. I know it was beautiful. Elton does nothing but beautiful things he’s the queen of good.
About a year ago, I interviewed you, and you brought up your alter-ego, Priscilla.
She’s still here.
You said that Priscilla was coming out to wreak revenge on someone who wronged you. So who wronged you?
Oh my goodness. I don’t really know what it could have been. I’m trying to remember but I don’t remember what it was.
When did Priscilla come into your life?
And how did you come up with the name? She’s been here since I was a child. She’s always had a place in my heart. I just needed something with a P like Patti or Patricia. So I just named her Priscilla.
How do you feel about the current state of black soul music?
There’s not much. There are some people who are trying, like Leela James and Christina Aguilera. But there are not many artists who are truly singing.
How about Keisha Coles and Beyonce?
I think Keisha’s real street and doesn’t hide it. She is who she is, and I like that. I think Beyonce’s very talented and beautiful, and she can do so many things. She’ll be around for a while.
And how do you feel this year’s “American Idol” contestant Mandisa, who could have been on a fast track to diva-hood but said that being gay is wrong.
Honey, gays are the ones who make you and stay with you. Girl, you better recognize! How stupid can these people be? How stupid can hearts be when people discriminate, period. It’s just an awful thing. And then to say something like that when the gays are going to make or break your ass? Excuse me?
Let’s talk about Lil’ Kim: Do you think she was good to momma in prison?
I don’t think she was good to momma I think momma was good to her. I guess she did her time well. I did go see her when she was in. It was kind of scary. I thought I would be really nervous, but I was fine once I saw her. We sat together and we laughed and we sang and we had fun.
Did she have any crazy prison stories to share?
No, she didn’t, but they did make her a cake when her album was released, with marshmallows and apples and jellybeans, whatever they had, and they cooked it in the microwave. She said she was learning how to cook with the microwave, so that’s good. I’m very happy that she’s out.
A LaBelle gospel album seems refreshing especially since conservatives are often wielding God as a weapon against gays and same-sex marriage.
It’s an inspirational album, and I don’t think God discriminates. I know he doesn’t. But there was a time in my church when a minister discriminated against me. Every Sunday he said I was singing for the devil, therefore I would not go to church as much after that and there are so many phonies who use the church as a shield to hide their anger and their deception and their phoniness and their perpetrating and their doing everything in the name of God. Those people are the kind I try not to be around.
Were you surprised to hear George W. Bush endorse a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage?
I’m not surprised at anything the man says. When he speaks, I sometimes can’t hear. He’s the president and he has the right to say what he wants to, but sometimes it’s not right.
What is the most important political issue on your mind today?
The world situation is so bad, I just wish there was more peace. I wish the Katrina tragedy was handled better. One of my friends who sang with me on the gospel album was a Katrina victim. There is not much justice in the world. I just wish there was more peace.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 28, 2006.