Patti LaBelle: Top 'Diva'

Gladys Knight, Jessica Simpson, Debbie Harry of Blondie, Cyndi Lauper, Joss Stone, Ashanti and Eve are on this year's "Divas" lineup. But the star of the show is none other than Patti LaBelle.

The seventh annual VH1 "Divas," a special to benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, airs live from Las Vegas on Sunday evening, April 18, at 9 p.m. ET.

The divas will be joined in song by Tom Jones, Sheila E. and The Pussycat Dolls featuring Carmen Electra, plus special appearances by Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Gloria Estefan, Tyra Banks, Usher, Daryl Hannah, Carly Simon, Jamie-Lynn Discala, Jessica Alba, Marg Helgenberger, Vanessa Williams, Nia Vardalos, Paula Abdul, Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, Amy Henry, and Heidi Bressler("The Apprentice").

VH1 Save the Music Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music programs in America's public schools and raising awareness of the positive impact that music participation has on students. Since VH1 Save The Music was created in 1997, more than $25 million worth of musical instruments have been donated to 1,000 public schools in 80 cities, improving the lives of more than 500,000 children.

Tickets priced at $150 and $75, not including applicable service charges, are currently on sale on mgmgrand.com, TicketMaster.com and at all TicketMaster outlets. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (702) 474-4000. Ticket sales are limited to eight (8) per person and tickets will remain on sale until sold out. VIP ticket packages are available by calling 212-846-7882.

Fans can go online to VH1.com and meet this year's divas, check out quizzes and trivia, video clips, photo flipbooks, radio and archives of past years' shows.

As this year's concert headliner, LaBelle is the diva among divas, and The Early Show's Melinda Murphy was able to talk to her last week during a break in rehearsals for a recent show at New York's Apollo Theater.

LaBelle says, "I heard about it and heard that they were making me the top dog, or whatever, and I said, are you sure they got the right dog?"

But LaBelle's the one, with a 40-year career that is still going strong. Murphy got to hear her sing her latest single, "New Day," which is featured on her new album due out next month. She plans to sing it at Sunday's "Divas" concert.

This concert is an homage to strong women. It is a concert LaBelle says she doubts could have been done back in 1962, when she had her first hit.

She notes, "Women are strong now. Women are dominating the charts, and women are doing it for themselves. We're kicking butt and taking no prisoners."

The divas at this year's show include young performers such as Simpson and Ashanti. LaBelle likes being the most seasoned of the bunch.

LaBelle says, "I have not paid attention to trying to keep up with the younger girl who's singing and doing their thing. I keep up with Patti. I'll be 60 May 24, and I'm feeling wonderful. I don't feel as though I have to prove anything to anybody."

Why would she? After all, she already has a couple of Grammys. She's also written cookbooks and even done a little acting in "A Soldier's Story." And there's more.

She says, "I have five kids: four kids and an adopted son. I have Patti's pots and pans coming out soon. And Patti's jewelry on Home Shopping Network and my clothing line."

But it hasn't always been easy. LaBelle lost her mother, three sisters and best friend in a 10-year span.

She says, "That's all a part of life. I'm no different than you. I know you've had people in your family pass away. And you keep going, because they would want you to. So, that doesn't stop me. That gives me more energy, just to kick butt, as long as I can."

Energy she puts to good use working for charities, which is part of her attraction to the "Divas" concert.

She notes, "It benefits Save the Music, which is truly a wonderful thing, because our children need instruments and more music in our schools."

So what can we expect from this year's concert?

"I don't know," LaBelle says, "I'm very spontaneous. But I know I'm going to jump out with 'Lady Marmalade.'"

It was her breakout hit back in 1973.

She continues, "I'm going to do that with two of the girls. I'm not going to tell you which two. I have to keep some things a surprise, don't I?"

Well, we do know the "Divas" concerts usually feature some amazing duets, which is a tradition first born in 1998 when Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin paired up.

"I'm going to do something with Cyndi Lauper," LaBelle reveals. "I'm her child's godmother. We're buddies. I sang at her wedding."

LaBelle also plans a medley of ballads. Asked if she has found that place "Over The Rainbow," LaBelle says, "Not yet. I'm still trying to get there. If birds fly high, why can't I?"
  • Tatiana Morales

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