Patti LaBelle brought her incomparable voice and signature song “If Only You Knew” to the ESSENCE Festival of Cultural Evening Concert Series last weekend. After waiting for the global pandemic to be over, or at least the green light that it’s okay to come outside, the Grammy winner broke free from her quarantine to perform in her Philadelphia hometown.
It was Labelle’s first show in four months, and she was excited to hit those virtual festival streets. Other artists who performed during Saturday’s Evening Concert Series included Common, Andra Day, Ledisi, Bruno Mars, PJ Morton and India.Aire.
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“Hey, ESSENCE! We’re all happy to be here,” the dramatic soprano said while rocking a fuchsia suit and grabbing the mic. “We’re going to make this world a better world. We all can if we keep doing the right thing. God bless you all.”
Then the woman who made folks run to WalMart for sweet potato pie proceeded to serve a shoe-tossing rendition of her No. 1 hit “If Only You Knew,” from 1983’s I’m in Love Again. For the record, “If Only You Knew” is the only ballad that adequately describes what it’s like to harbor a secret crush and then get the nerve to do something about it. Commit the first few lines to memory: “I must have rehearsed my lines a thousand times until I had them memorized.”
In 1984, “If Only You Knew” reached No. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the now 76-year-old’s first crossover pop hit. “If Only You Knew,” “On My Own” featuring Michael McDonald and “Lady Marmalade” with LaBelle are the Godmother of Soul’s only No. 1 hits on the R&B chart.
LaBelle’s classic song has been covered by several artists, including Phil Perry, SWV and Keke Wyatt.
Recently the singer, actress and entrepreneur was a guest on our Yes, Girl! podcast. Hear Labelle’s interview with hosts Cori Murray and Charli Penn below.