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African American Famous Leo Herstory

Patti Austin: The Sophisticated Vocalist

Patti Austin is an African American Grammy award vocalist and songwriter, whose style is steeped in jazz. Austin who was a protégé of Dinah Washington and Sammy Davis, Jr, made her debut at the Apollo Theater at age four and had a contract with RCA Records when she was only five. She enjoyed a period of stardom during the heyday of smooth, expertly produced rhythm-and blues music in the 1980s.

Born in New York on August 10, 1948, Austin grew up in the lap of show business. At the tender age of four she made her performing debut, singing a song called Teach Me Tonight on the stage of Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater during an appearance by vocalist Dinah Washington, who was also Austin’s godmother.

Austin’s first major series of appearances as a mature singer came when she was 16, when she went on tour with pop vocalist Harry Belafonte, then near the peak of his fame. By the late 1960s Austin was a prolific session musician and commercial jingle singer. By the 1980s she was signed to Jones’s Qwest Records and she began having hits. 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.

In 1984, Austin was shaken by a house fire that destroyed nearly everything she owned and came within seconds of killing her elderly parents. The accident made Austin reexamine her priorities in life. Austin scaled back, built a new home in upstate New York, and reconnected with some of her former jazz associates.

A gifted songwriter and performer, Patti’s early solo career resulted in the chart-topping, Grammy nominated hit Baby Come To Me, a now classic duet with James Ingram; the R&B smash, The Heat of Heat, and the Oscar nominated, How Do You Keep the Music Playing? A later stint at GRP Records produced 1991’s Carry On, followed by Love is Gonna Getcha (featuring the across the board hit Through the Test of Time), That Secret Place, and Patti Austin Live (recorded at New York’s Bottom Line), which showcased her amazing standup comedic skills and brilliant impersonations. Her 1998 album, In and Out of Love spent almost two years on the contemporary jazz charts. In 1999-2000, she recorded On The Way to Love, a superb Warner Brothers album, produced by Paul Brown.

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.

Patti Austin is committed to social issues through her work to end domestic violence and gives countless hours to her mentoring work through The Over My Shoulder Foundation which she co founded. Austin was also 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 2013, she appears in the Academy Award-winning documentary film 20 Feet from Stardom , which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She is working on an upcoming, as yet untitled duets album project with James Ingram.


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