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Patti Austin Austin was born in Harlem, New York and grew up on Long Island. Her father was a Jazz musician for a time.
She made her debut at the Apollo Theater at age four and had a contract with RCA Records when she was five. Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington have proclaimed themselves as her godparents.
By the late 1960s Austin was a prolific session musician and commercial jingle singer. During the 1980s, signed to Jones's Qwest Records, she began her most prolific hit-making period. By this time she was both one of the leading go-to background session vocalists, appearing on numerous famous albums by other artists, and also was known as Queen of The Jingles. There was a period where it was as if one could not turn on the television without hearing Austin's voice singing about varied products from Burger King, Almay make-up, Avon, KFC, MacDonalds, Meow Mix, Impulse, Stouffers, Maxwell House, and too, even the US Army "Be All That You Can Be!"
She charted twenty R&B songs between 1969 and 1991 and had success on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, where she hit number one in 1981 with "Do You Love Me?" / "The Genie". The album containing that hit, Every Home Should Have One, also produced her biggest mainstream hit. "Baby, Come to Me", a duet with James Ingram, initially peaked at number 73 on the Hot 100 in early 1982. After being featured as the love theme in a prominent storyline on the soap opera General Hospital, the song re-entered the pop chart in October and went to number one in February 1983. The single was certified Gold by the RIAA. She would later team up again with Ingram for "How Do You Keep The Music Playing", now a Pop and Jazz standard. Written by longtime Austin collaborators, Alan and Marilyn Bergman & composer Michel Legrand, the song has since been covered by numerous artists - from Frank Sinatra to Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis, a champion of Austin's flexible voice and artistry.
That year, Austin's single "It's Gonna Be Special" was featured on the soundtrack for the Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta film Two of a Kind. Though the film was not the major success envisioned for the re-teaming of the Grease stars, the soundtrack went Platinum and Austin's single, produced by Quincy Jones, became one of her highest-profile hits. "It's Gonna Be Special" peaked at #5 on the Dance charts, #15 on the R&B charts, and charted on the Hot 100 in 1984. The song also appeared on her self-titled album of that year, and its follow-up single, "Rhythm of the Street", remixed by John "Jellybean" Benitez, narrowly missed Billboard's Dance Top Ten, though it peaked higher on Hi-NRG charts. The two songs were featured on a double-A-side 12" single. For "Rhythm of the Street" Austin shot her first music video. The "Patti Austin" album played like a non-stop 'something for everyone' party/dance record, with the exception of two slower songs contributed by producer/writer/artist, David Pack, who would later play an important role in Austin's recording career. With numerous top producers of the day, though the self-titled project failed to receive a wide audience, artistically, perhaps the record is best described as her own "Thriller." Austin displays much ease delivering her vocals on each track, from Pop-Soul, to Funk, Rock ("Change Your Attitude"), mid-tempo ballad, to the closing, Jazzy torch song, "Any Way You Can," a very Bluesy change of pace cool-down.
Next Austin released her third album in three years entitled Gettin' Away With Murder. In addition to the title track, she had two more hit singles, "Honey For The Bees" (#24 R&B and #6 Dance) and "The Heat of Heat". Produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, noted for their later work with Janet Jackson, the latter track returned Austin to the top 15 of the R&B charts for what would be the last time to date. It would also be her last Hot 100 charting to date, although she would score a top-5 dance hit with the single Reach that appeared originally on her 1994 CD That Secret Place (GRP Records). "Gettin' Away With Murder" was at least as good as its predecessor, employing big league producers Russ Titelman, Tommy LiPuma, Monte Moir (of "The Time"), and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who said Austin had been the most prepared artist they had worked with up to that point. Billy Joel (Austin sang background on his "Just The Way You Are"), Dan Hartman, friends Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown, along with Chaka Khan were among the background vocalists on the project, with successful songwriters, Randy Goodrum, Michael Bolton, Jam & Lewis plus several other big name writers offering up their best compositions on what was likely a big budget affair. Having worked with the best of the best for so long, it's clear how well-respected and admired Patti Austin is among musicians within the recording industry. Again, there are many styles of music and moods on the album. The artist jumps from song to song, effortlessly, as though some sort of vocal magician or chameleon, embracing it all with conviction and skill.
She next appeared with Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen in Francis Ford Coppola's critically acclaimed period piece Tucker: The Man and his Dream (1988). That year, Austin released The Real Me, a collection of standards which garnered her the first of several Top 10 showings on the Jazz Albums chart. "The Real Me" was chiefly produced by David Pack who had been a part of the Pop group Ambrosia. Austin served as a co-producer and as Executive Producer on the project which has been heralded by many experts as a modern-day masterpiece. When Austin remakes a song, she re-THINKS the song, as is evident on bright new arrangements of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo", Leonard Bernstein-Betty Comden & Adolph Green's clever, energetic "I Can Cook Too", "Lazy Afternoon", The Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me", a loving vocalese treatment of Quincy Jones' "Stockholm Sweetnin'", as well as a pretty and thoughtful duet with Pack on Cole Porter's "True Love." As with pretty much all of her albums, there is NO FILLER HERE and the support talent is a who's who of Pop music's best. "The Real Me" was Austin's swan song with Qwest Records. By now Quincy Jones had become even more famous as the producer of Michael Jackson's record-breaking "Thriller" album and had ventured forth into film and TV production ("The Color Purple"; "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air") and he just wasn't as hands-on at his Qwest label anymore. Austin's output got lost in the shuffle and she opted to leave.
The Queen of the Jingles might also be Queen of the Duet. Patti Austin sang "It's the Falling in Love" with Michael Jackson on his album Off The Wall. Other duet partners include George Benson ("Moody's Mood for Love" and "Keep Your Dreams Alive"), and Luther Vandross ("I'm Gonna Miss You In The Morning"). Earlier she'd recorded featured duets with Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons on "Our Day Will Come" and "Swearin' To God" with little billing. Austin also sang lead and background vocals on many contemporary Jazz instrumentalists' records in the 1970s. In 1985 she sang lead vocals on a collaboration with her producer, Narada Michael Walden, and the single, "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme", went top 40 on the R&B charts. In 1991, she recorded the duet "You Who Brought Me Love" with music legend Johnny Mathis, which was received with critical acclaim. That same year she was invited to be a guest on a Johnny Mathis television special that was broadcast across North America.
Elsewhere, Austin led a new group of Raelettes for the 2006 album Ray Charles + Count Basie Orchestra = Genius². That group also featured veteran session singer Valerie Pinkston and members of the group Perry.
During a 2007 interview promoting her latest recording, Austin reflected how as a teenager she reluctantly attended one of Judy Garland's last concerts and the experience helped focus her career, stating "She (Judy Garland) ripped my heart out. I wanted to interpret a lyric like that, to present who I was at the moment through the lyric."
In 2007 Patti Austin participated in the Avo Session Basel with a program dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald.
In 2008, fifty-three years after getting her first record contract, Patti Austin was awarded her first Grammy Award, winning Best Jazz Vocal Album for Avant Gershwin at the 50th annual Grammy Awards. The award came for her ninth nomination in that category.
She reported to Jim Newsom of Portfolio Weekly in 2006 “I just lost 140 pounds. “I had gastric bypass surgery a year and a half ago, and my life was saved by it. “I went to a doctor for a complete physical because I had a torn meniscus in my knee. He said, ‘You’ve got to lose this weight —- you’ve got type II diabetes, you have asthma and you’re menopausal. You’ve got to get rid of this weight and you’ve got to get rid of it fast. This is the best way for you to do it.’”
Austin is co-producer and one of over 70 artists singing on "We Are the World: 25 for Haiti", a charity single in aid of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
In 2011 Patti Austin released a mostly covers album project titled "Sound Advice" which contained heartfelt, dazzling re-thinkings of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody", Brenda Russell's "A Little Bit Of Love", a lesser known Jacksons tune, "Give It Up," her tribute to late friend/collaborator, Michael Jackson, a unique spin on Bill Withers, "Lean On Me" which she first sang at a milestone birthday for her Godfather Quincy Jones to much acclaim. Also on "Sound Advice" standout performances of Don McLean's "Vincent" (aka Starry Starry Night) and a deeply female take on "My Way." Austin wrote the anthemic "The Grace Of God" after watching an episode of the old "Oprah Winfrey Show" which featured a facially scarred woman ... Keeping relevant, Austin offered the bouncy slice of Pop/Rock/RandB "Round And Round" including the latest trendy vocal effects, though Austin remains one singer who clearly needs no such production techniques to cover a crystal clear, flexible, and knowing voice imitated by many, duplicated by none.
Austin has not slowed down, in 2012 she celebrated an incredible 57 years as a recording artist, 58 years as a professional singer, and at age 62 she is quite involved in charities to stop domestic violence and in mentoring, having taken many young singers under her own tutelage as Dinah Washington, Jones, and Sammy Davis Jr. had done for her. She is working on (finally!) a duets album with former Qwest Records label mate James Ingram and yet another set with the WDR Big Band - this time to be an all Duke Ellington compositions affair.
Most recently Patti Austin co-wrote and sings in the star-studded L.O.V.E. - Let One Voice Emerge, encouraging especially younger Americans to get out there and exercise their right to vote.
Austin appears in the documentary film Twenty Feet From Stardom (2013), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released on 21 June 2013.is an American R&B, Pop and Jazz music singer, known for her gorgeous yet powerful voice and a rare gift of singing in virtually any music genre with class and conviction. In 2008 she received the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal album for "Avant Gershwin" recorded mostly live with The WDR Big Band in Germany. Fanart Banner