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‘Stir it Up’ with Patti LaBelle in Medford

The penultimate date of the indefatigable diva's nearly 11 full months on the road this year will happen at Chevalier Theatre on December 2.

R&B/soul vocalist Patti LaBelle has been around long enough to have participated in (at least) two significant firsts.

In October 1974, her eponymous trio was the first Black group to play the New York Metropolitan Opera House. Eight months later, LaBelle and bandmates Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash became the first Black vocal group to appear – decked out in George Clinton-inspired costumes – on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The latter honor was due largely to the trio’s worldwide smash “Lady Marmalade,” which had recently reached No. 1 in the U.S. If you don’t recognize the title, you surely know the timeless refrain: “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”

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LaBelle would reach the top spot again more than a decade later when she duetted with Michael McDonald for “On My Own.” That song’s parent album, “Winner in You,” also peaked at No. 1.

The “Godmother of Soul” was hardly a significant chart presence in the ’90s, but that didn’t stop her from procuring Grammy trophies for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1991 and Best Traditional R&B Performance in 1998.

LaBelle has further cemented her status as a pop culture icon on myriad fronts in just the past few years.

She said in a 2017 interview of her ongoing immense popularity among LGBTQIA+ people, “I just want all of my gay fans to know that I will always be here for them the way I am … [T]he gay fans are some of the reason – one big reason – I’m still standing, ’cause they loved me when other people tried not to.”

Three years ago, the 200 block of Broad Street in Philadelphia, the city in which LaBelle was born and still lives, was named Patti LaBelle Way.

Furthermore, she was recently cast to portray Dulé Hill’s character’s mother for season two of “The Wonder Years” reboot. 

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Finally, LaBelle is currently prepping a new studio album, her first since the superb 2017 jazz excursion “Bel Hommage”

All of these are good reasons to be in LaBelle’s presence at Chevalier Theatre on Dec. 2. However, the 78-year-old probably gave the best reason to come to one of her performances in a recent interview with AARP.

“I’m onstage for 90 minutes, talking to the audience about everything … By the end of the show, I have whites and Blacks, gays and straights all hugging. They find something that brings out a little spark that may have stayed hidden if they hadn’t come to my concert.”

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