Patti Austin (born 10 August 1950) is an American R&B, pop and jazz singer.
Life and career:
Austin was born in Harlem, New York to Gordon, a jazz trombonist, and Edna Austin and was raised in Bay Shore on Long Island.Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington have referred to themselves as her godparents.
She made her debut at the Apollo Theater at age four and had a contract with RCA Records when she was five years old.
By the late 1960s, Austin was a session musician and commercial jingle singer. She appeared on numerous albums by other artists and was known as "Queen of The Jingles," appearing on advertisements for Burger King, Almay make-up, Avon, KFC, McDonalds, Meow Mix, Impulse, Stouffers, Maxwell House and the United States Army.
Austin recorded with Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons on "Our Day Will Come" and "Swearin' To God" and sang lead and background vocals on many contemporary jazz instrumentalists' records in the 1970s.
Austin sang lead vocal on the title single of Yutaka Yokokura's 1978 debut album, "Love Light" (Toshiba-EMI Music Japan.) The album received an American release in 1981 on Alfa Records, with the title single reaching #81 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Austin sang "It's the Falling in Love" with Michael Jackson on his 1979 album Off The Wall.
Austin charted 20 R&B songs between 1969 and 1991, but her most prolific hit-making period came in the 1980s. Signed to Jones's Qwest Records, she had success on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in 1981 with the number one hit "Do You Love Me?" / "The Genie" from the album Every Home Should Have One. The album also produced her biggest mainstream hit, "Baby, Come to Me," a duet with James Ingram. The song initially peaked at number 73 on the Hot 100 in early 1982. After being featured 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.
Austin teamed up again with Ingram for "How Do You Keep The Music Playing" from the soundtrack of the film Best Friends. 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 a major success for the Grease stars, the soundtrack went platinum. Austin's single, produced by Quincy Jones, became one of her most successful. "It's Gonna Be Special" peaked at #5 on the dance charts, #15 on the R&B charts and charted on the Hot 100 chart in 1984. The song also appeared on Austin's self-titled album of that year. A follow-up single, "Rhythm of the Street," remixed by John "Jellybean" Benitez, narrowly missed Billboard's Dance Top Ten chart, 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.
Austin's 1985 album, Gettin' Away With Murder, was her third album in as many years. It produced two more hit singles, "Honey For The Bees" (#24 R&B and #6 Dance) and "The Heat of Heat." The album used producers Russ Titelman, Tommy LiPuma, Monte Moir (of "The Time") and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Billy Joel (Austin sang background on his "Just The Way You Are"), Dan Hartman, friends Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown and Chaka Khan were among the background vocalists on the project. Songwriters included Randy Goodrum, Michael Bolton and Jam & Lewis.
Also in 1985, Austin sang lead vocals on a collaboration with her producer, Narada Michael Walden, and the single, "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme", hit the top 40 of the R&B charts.
Austin appeared with Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen in Francis Ford Coppola's 1988 comedy-drama film, Tucker: The Man and his Dream.
Also in 1988, Austin released The Real Me, a collection of standards which garnered the first of several Top 10 showings on the jazz albums chart. The Real Me was chiefly produced by David Pack, lead singer of the pop group Ambrosia, though Austin served as a co-producer and executive producer on the project. Other duet partners included George Benson ("Moody's Mood for Love" and "Keep Your Dreams Alive") and Luther Vandross ("I'm Gonna Miss You In The Morning").
In 1991, Austin recorded a duet with Johnny Mathis, "You Who Brought Me Love," which received critical acclaim. That same year, she was invited to be a guest on a Mathis television special.
Austin scored a top five dance hit with the single, "Reach," from her 1994 CD, That Secret Place (GRP Records). Austin was scheduled to be on onboard United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, but because her mother suffered a strokes days before her flight she cancelled it for a earlier one.
In 2003, Austin collaborated with legendary Asian artist Frances Yip from Hong Kong in "Papillon III" in the rotunda of San Francisco City Hall to benefit the Jade Ribbon Campaign of Stanford University. A companion CD/DVD was released, featuring Austin and Yip's duets of many classic Chinese numbers sung in Mandarin and directed and arranged by music director Carlton Liu.1
Austin led a new group of Raelettes for the 2006 Ray Charles posthumous album Ray Sings, Basie Swings. Also featured were veteran session singer Valerie Pinkston and members of the group Perry.
During a 2007 interview, Austin spoke of reluctantly attending as a teenager one of Judy Garland's last concerts and how the experience helped focus her career. "She 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, Austin participated in the Avo Session Basel with a program dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald.
At the 50th annual Grammy Awards in 2008, Austin's album Avant Gershwin won for best jazz vocal. The album was recorded mostly live with The WDR Big Band in Germany. The nomination was her ninth in that category.
Austin was co-producer and one of over 70 artists singing on "We Are the World: 25 for Haiti," a charity single to aid victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
In 2011, Austin released Sound Advice, an album consisting mostly of covers. Songs included re-works of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody;" Brenda Russell's "A Little Bit Of Love;" a lesser known Jacksons tune, "Give It Up," as a tribute to Michael Jackson; Bill Withers' "Lean On Me," which she first sang at a milestone birthday for Quincy Jones; Don McLean's "Vincent;" and "My Way." The album also included "The Grace Of God," written by Austin after she watched an episode of the "Oprah Winfrey Show" which featured a facially scarred woman.
Austin co-wrote and sings in the "L.O.V.E. - Let One Voice Emerge" video, a non-partisan voter participation campaign.
Austin appeared in the Academy Award-winning documentary film 20 Feet from Stardom, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released on 21 June 2013.