Patti LaBelle still remembers the day she first heard "Lady Marmalade," the smash disco hit that catapulted her voice into millions of homes and clubs in the 1970s.
"I knew it was a hit," she says. "We had no clue what the words meant — 'Voulez-vous coucher' — but we knew it sounded great."
The year was 1974 and she was fronting the band Labelle. They were about to fly to New Orleans to record a new album with Allen Toussaint when songwriter Bob Crewe called their manager.
Wells Fargo Center Renovation
"He said, 'Please stop by on your way to the airport. I have a hit.' So we went to his apartment and listened and we knew we had something," she said.
It was the first song they recorded with Toussaint for the "Nightbirds" album, and "Lady Marmalade" would go straight to No. 1 on the charts. Soon after, they underwent a disco makeover, with space-age silver and metallic costumes and massive platform shoes. By 1975, they were on the cover of "Rolling Stone" magazine.
Over the years, Patti LaBelle would go on to record huge hits like "On My Own" (with singer Michael McDonald), "New Attitude" and "If You Asked Me To," selling more than 50 million records on her way to a Grammy Hall of Fame induction.
These days, you're as likely to hear her name linked to the Lady Marmalade hot sauces, cookbooks and Macy's bedding that she sells. Coming soon: Patti LaBelle's "Macaroni and Cheese with Lobster" in the refrigerated aisle.
Before she plays the Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa Friday night, the 69-year-old diva took a tour break at her home in Philadelphia to chat about cooking, her Shih Tzu, and that "over-used" word often applied to singers of her stature.
Q: What's your daily ritual like these days?
A: I get up about 9 in the morning and I'll have breakfast, and then I'll play with my little Shih Tzu. His name is Cuddles and he's a little cutie pie. We'll walk around the neighborhood and then I'll come back and I'll think about lunch or maybe not. And then eventually I'll think about dinner and I cook dinner and then I'll chill and watch TV.