Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle in 2014
Photo: Walter McBride/Getty Images
Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle's Verzuz Faceoff Was A Moment Of Pure Soul Sisterhood
Last night (Sept. 13), GRAMMY-winning music icons Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight brought a big serving of soul and sisterhood to the latest Verzuz faceoff. During the livestream's joyful three hours, the powerhouse pair sang 35 songs (including two renditions of "Midnight Train To Georgia") selected from their gem-filled catalogues dating back 60 years. In between the music, the two R&B/soul greats showered each other with praise and offered nuggets of wisdom, humor and shout-outs to the star-studded virtual audience, which included the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.
"I love that tune," LaBelle praised after Knight's first rendition of "Midnight Train To Georgia" and just about halfway into the faceoff. "There's nothing I don't love that you might sing tonight. So, let's just get it clear, I'm ready for you honey."
The evening's rich setlist included selections from their early acts—LaBelle's fabulous girl group Labelle and Knight's family affair Gladys Knight & the Pips—as well as their longtime solo acts. This included LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade," If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "Love, Need and Want You" and Knight's "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)," "Friendship Train" and "Love Overboard."
They both sang along to their songs—for the most part, joking about forgetting some of the lyrics to the older songs—with their warm voices and still-epic high notes offering comfort during these hectic times. They also sang along with each other, as this Verzuz was not a battle, but a moment for the musical powerhouses to show each other some love and appreciation. They also shared the love for their collaborators, children, viewers and the Verzuz and Apple Music team (who recently partnered with the Swizz Beatz- and Timbaland-created event). Swizzy got warm birthday wishes (he was born Sept. 13) and wow, what a great way to celebrate being alive.
After their seventh-round faceoff, where LaBelle sang "Love, Need and Want You" and Knight delivered "Someone to Watch Over Me," the pair began talking warmly about their children. Knight revealed she didn't know about Verzuz until her son Shanga called her up and encouraged her to try to get on in, which she did. "I hope you're proud of us, sons," she said. We also learned that LaBelle still has a flip phone. "I love my flip. I'm very low-key," she shared with a smile.
When they saw the Former First Lady pop up in the viewer list, or as LaBelle dubbed it "the virtual front row," they were both genuinely thrilled and sent love and praise her way. "I am so proud of her," Knight chimed in, adding, "She's a sweetheart and she's down to earth." "And she's married to the best man in the whole world," the both chimed in. "We miss you Michelle and Barack," LaBelle said.
In addition to the many notable virtual guests, there was a very special in-studio guest—Dionne Warwick, who helped close out the evening with an extra dose of sisterhood. The three musical heroes sang Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For" and their 1991 remake of Karyn White's female empowerment hit, "Superwoman."
If you missed the much-needed evening of wholesome, heartwarming and soul-stirring content, you can watch the last half or so in the YouTube video above.
The LaBelle and Knight Verzuz follows Brandy and Monica's also-amazing showdown on Aug. 31. In addition to the huge number of viewers who tune into the streams via IGTV and Apple TV, the much-buzzed-about episodes always lead to a boost in interest in the featured artists and their music. In the case of the '90s R&B queens, their episode was watched by over 60 million viewers and they collectively logged 21.9 million U.S. streams in just the two days following. Stay tuned to Verzuz' Instagram for the data behind the Knight and LaBelle love fest, as well as for info on upcoming T.B.A. pairings. Here's to the love being showered back onto the soul queens.