It's hard out there, being a multi-millionaire, black singer.
“That is the fabulous Patti LaBelle,” said Today Show host Meredith Vieira. “What a voice.”
We had just listened to possibly the worst singing performance, outside of American Idol, ever shown on live TV. The 63-year-old LaBelle was off-key; her voice broke on every note; and the song she "sang" was unrecognizable.
Of Vieira’s intro, The Boss said, “They have to say that; they got to save their job.”
I feel like suing. My ears hurt. I’m no singer, and yet, I’m in much better voice than LaBelle is, this morning.
The Boss changes the channel to the Fox morning show with Jodi and Ron.
“I can’t take Patti LaBelle singing. The lady’ll keep me awake. I gotta sleep,” says The Boss, who just came home from working the graveyard shift.
What was the woman singing? Something about “silver and gold”?
The Boss says it was, “I will bring Him silver and gold,” as in “Do You Hear What I Hear?” but what LaBelle was singing didn’t sound at all like that song. The Boss provides her universal explanatory theory for bad contemporary Christmas music: “It’s other people songs she singin,’ so she have to sing it differently.”
Sure enough, I Google LaBelle, and find that she is flogging a Christmas album that includes a five-minute-long assault on “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
In late November, LaBelle claimed to reporters that she was the victim of racism, because she and Celine Dion had both sung the same song, “If You Asked Me to,” and LaBelle’s version made it only to #79 on the pop charts in 1989, while Dion’s 1992 version made it to #4. LaBelle’s explanation for the greater popularity of Dion's version: “because she's a white girl,” and the music business is so racist.
That was LaBelle’s good-natured way of reflecting on a music award both singers had just received. During the same interview, she also claimed that Dion – you know, the “white girl”? – is her friend.
I've been singing for 45 years and that's an obstacle that I'm still ... I'm getting over it because I'm fabulous. You know, so you can't beat me up. You can't make me feel less than I am because whenever I get the microphone I'm gonna show you who I am. But the industry is very racist.
Let’s see. She’s "fabulous," so you can’t hurt her, but she’s still struggling with it after 45 years, and obsessing over having been outsold by a white singer on one single 15 years ago. For Patti LaBelle these days, logic is as much of a struggle as singing is. And if the music industry is so racist, why is it still giving record contracts to a washed-up, black singer with a voice that is a public menace?
I haven’t heard either singer’s recording of “If You Asked Me to,” though when LaBelle began her campaign, I read some bloggers who said that Dion had flat out outsung her, which makes sense. While Celine Dion is no Ella Fitzgerald, she has long been a much better singer than Patti LaBelle.
But you just keep on saying that you’re "fabulous," and that only "racism" is keeping you down (or is it not keeping you down?), Patti. Maybe that’ll get you enough attention to make a few pity sales of your Christmas CD. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Award-winning, New York-based freelancer Nicholas Stix founded A Different Drummer magazine (1989-93). Stix has written for Die Suedwest Presse, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Middle American News, Toogood Reports, Insight, Chronicles, the American Enterprise, Campus Reports, VDARE, the Weekly Standard, Front Page Magazine, Ideas on Liberty, National Review Online and the Illinois Leader. His column also appears at Men's News Daily, MichNews, Intellectual Conservative, Enter Stage Right and OpinioNet. Stix has studied at colleges and universities on two continents, and earned a couple of sheepskins, but he asks that the reader not hold that against him. His day jobs have included washing pots, building Daimler-Benzes on the assembly-line, tackling shoplifters and teaching college, but his favorite job was changing his son's diapers.