Born in 1948 in New York City , USA , Patti Austin first sang on stage at the age of three at the famous Apollo Theatre in New York City with her godmother Dinah Washington. As a child performer, she appeared on television, including Sammy Davis Jr.’s program, and in the theatre. Her stage work included “ Lost In The Stars” and “ Finian’s Rainbow” . At the age of nine she traveled to Europe with the bandleader/arranger Quincy Jones (her godfather). As a 16-year-old, she toured with Harry Belafonte and began recording at the age of 17.Surrounded by show biz vets from such an early age, it was inevitable that Patti Austin would find herself on stage with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Ray Bolger and, after high school, touring with the great Harry Belafonte. This led to numerous television appearances, more solo recordings and a three-year international tour as a headlining club singer with the Intercontinental hotel chain. Returning to New York , she realized she could apply her skills to the lucrative studio world by doing background vocal sessions and jingles. “… The first session I did was for James Brown’s hit, It’s A Man’s World , and when I got a nice juicy check from that, I said: hey, let me do some more of this stuff!”
It wasn’t long before Patti became known as the undisputed “queen” of the New York jingle and session scene. Her voice has been heard on literally hundreds of commercials, behind everyone from Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Frankie Valli, Joe Cocker, George Benson and Roberta Flack to Bette Midler. Inevitably, Patti’s musical talents emerged from the background to the foreground. Austin ‘s first recordings were for Coral Records in 1965. “Family Tree”, recorded in 1969 for United Artists Records, was an R&B hit. After a short span with Columbia Records, she was introduced to industry veteran Creed Taylor by Harry Belafonte’s former musical director, Bill Eaton. Signed to Taylor ‘s CTI label, Patti made a quartet of acclaimed albums for the company, including the milestone “End Of A Rainbow,” “Havana Candy,” “Live At The Bottom Line” and ” Body Language.”
At the beginning of the ’80s, Quincy Jones gave Patti exposure to a wider audience through her participation on his best-selling albums “Stuff Like That!” and the Grammy-winning classic, “The Dude.” In 1981, she signed with Jones’ Qwest label; her debut album for the label, “Every Home Should Have One” included the chart-topping “Baby Come To Me,” a duet with then-label mate James Ingram. The pair reprised their success in 1983 with the Oscar-nominated “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” which they performed at the Academy Awards. Patti would later perform another Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy-nominated song, “The Girl Who Used To Be Me” (from the film “Shirley Valentine”) on worldwide television.
Patti’s association with Qwest resulted in the albums “Patti Austin,” “Gettin’ Away With Murder” (featuring the Jam & Lewis-produced R&B smash “The Heat of Heat”) and the magnificent David Pack-produced “The Real Me.” Focusing on a powerful collection of pop and jazz standards including “Cry Me A River,” “Smoke Get In Your Eyes” and “Mood Indigo,” “The Real Me” remains one of the most popular items in the Austin catalog.
Patti began a successful run at GRP Records in 1989 with “Christmas Time Is Here” from “Happy Anniversary Charlie Brown.” Other top-selling recordings followed, including 1991’s “Carry On,” featuring, “Givin’ In To Love,” a hit single which was turned into a hilarious spoof via her first video, with Patti in various comedic parody roles including Cleopatra and Sleeping Beauty!
Her GRP years also included the albums “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 more-than-ample standup comedic skills and brilliant impersonations, in addition to capturing the kind of dynamic, live musical performance which has made Patti one of the most popular artists both at home and abroad.
She has also recorded for Concord , Intervista and Playboy Jazz. Her 2002 album “for Ella”, a selection of songs associated with Ella Fitzerald, has been nominated for a Grammy in 2004.
In recent years, Patti has performed extensively throughout the Far East where she is immensely popular. Austin notes, “I go to the Philippines and Japan and people know the words to my songs. Even when I’m here in the States, I’m still amazed and surprised at people’s reactions to my work…”
In addition to her international concertizing, Patti has also devoted a lot of time to performing for AIDS-related organizations also taking part in the ’93 and the ’97 “Colors of Christmas” tours with old friends and colleagues Peabo Bryson, Roberta Flack, James Ingram and Jeffrey Osborne. And, lest anyone forget, Patti has shown her more playful side with guest appearances on shows like “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” “The Dr. Ruth Show,” “Joan Rivers” and “Arsenio Hall.”
Selected Discography: End Of A Rainbow (CTI 1976)
Havana Candy (CTI 1977)
Live At The Bottom Line (CTI 1979)
Body Language (CTI 1980)
Every Home Should Have One (Qwest 1981)
Patti Austin (Qwest 1984)
Gettin’ Away With Murder (Qwest 1985)
The Real Me (Qwest 1988)
Love’s Gonna Getcha (GRP 1990)
Carry On (GRP 1991)
Live (GRP 1992)
That Secret Place (GRP 1994)
In & Out Of Love (Concord Vista 1998)
Street Of Dreams (Intersound 1999)
On The Way To Love (Intersound 2001)
For Ella (Playboy Jazz 2002).
Compilations: The Best Of Patti Austin ( Columbia 1994)
The Ultimate Collection (GRP 1995)
Take Away The Pain Stain (Body & Soul 1999)
The CTI Collection (Connoisseur 2000)
The Very Best Of Patti Austin (Rhino 2001).
Filmography: It’s Your Thing (1970)
The Wiz voice only (1978)
One Trick Pony (1980)
Tucker: The Man And His Dream (1988)