As one of the most versatile and collaborative singers of the past century, Patti Austin has been in the music business for as long as she can remember – in fact, perhaps longer. At just four years old, she made her first stage appearance at the Apollo Theater in answer to a dare from her godmother, famed jazz vocalist Dinah Washington. She received further encouragement from her father – a jazz musician himself – and her godfather, the great Quincy Jones. Although these relationships have had much significance throughout the course of Austin’s career, she would not have been able to make the most of these opportunities if she did not have the talent to hold an audience’s attention. Even at age four, this particular skill was never in question. By age five, she had signed her first recording deal. Over the course of the career that followed, Austin has had more than twenty hit songs on the R&B, jazz, dance and pop music charts, earning her a Grammy award and inductance into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.
Before finding success as an independent singer, Austin was well established outside of the spotlight as a session vocalist and background singer. Her voice can be heard backing artists like Cat Stevens, James Brown, Paul Simon, Joe Cocker, Luther Vandross, and Diana Ross, to name a few. She earned the nickname “The Queen of Jingles” for the dozens of prominent television and radio commercials that featured her.
Austin went on to make her mark as a star in her own right. After releasing several singles and her first two LPs, she landed her first chart-topping hit with “Do You Love Me?” She enjoyed further success throughout the 1980s with songs such as “I’m Gonna Miss You In The Morning,” a duet with Luther Vandross, and “It’s the Falling in Love,” her duet with Michael Jackson. She also contributed her voice to songs by artists such as Billy Joel, Chaka Khan, and Michael Bolton. Austin’s most recent and most acclaimed work has returned her to her jazz roots. Avant Gershwin, a reimagining of selected George Gershwin works, earned her a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. She also released For Ella, Austin’s personal tribute to the music of Ella Fitzgerald.
While Patti Austin has devoted her career to making thoughtful, uncompromising, and evocative music, she has always manage to give of her own time and resources to a variety of charitable causes. Austin has offered support to victims of domestic violence, youth education organizations, and AIDS awareness and prevention initiatives. In 2010, she co-produced and sang on “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti,” in support of the victims of the Haitian earthquake. Patti Austin’s bravery and charisma have not waned in the least since her debut at the Apollo more than five decades ago, and her ambition and advocacy continue to inspire countless people. It is incredibly fortunate that she has been able to share her gifts throughout such a long and lustrous career, and even more so that she has shown no signs of slowing down. Patti Austin remains a bright and vibrant star, a true entertainer and one of the last representatives of a Golden Age of popular music.