Gladys Knight Patti LaBelle, anticipated as any NFL game.
Two of the true living legends of popular music squared off live from Philadelphia in the latest installment of Verzuz last night (Sept. 13), in a matchup about as highly anticipated as any NFL game on this season-opening Sunday.
Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle, iconic soul voices, personalities and hitmakers whose careers stretch back to the early ’60s, got together for the most generation-spanning Verzuz yet, to the delight of over half a million fans watching over Instagram Live, and untold more via Apple Music — and for the first time, thousands more via the series’ official YouTube account as well.
“We are so happy to be together,” LaBelle kicked off the event by saying. “We’ve been together for many, many, many years.” The two then recounted their long history together, sharing memories of the various ways their careers had intersected over the years, and expressing plenty of mutual affection — about each other’s musical artistry, as well as about their respective families and even their famous culinary exploits.
The battle was sure to be one of the most memorable yet in the Swizz Beatz- and Timbaland-curated series, and the showdown between the two greats did not disappoint. Here’s how Billboard scored their matchup.
Round 1: Patti LaBelle’s “All Right Now” vs. Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me”
Patti goes fairly deep for her leadoff cut, with the high-energy early ’90s cut ‘All Right Now.” (“I only made four videos in my life, and that was one of them!” she comments.) Gladys goes classic, singing over an instrumental of her Pips-backed ’70s Billboard Hot 100 top five hit “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” Good start for both, but slight early advantage to Gladys.
WINNER: Gladys Knight
Round 2: Patti LaBelle’s “If You Asked Me To” vs. Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Make Yours a Happy Home”
“Céline did this after I did!” Patti remarks. Indeed, while Céline Dion went to the Hot 100’s top five in the early ’90s with “If You Asked Me To,” the Philly soul icon reminds why her immaculate 1989 original from the Licence to Kill soundtrack remains definitive, while also explaining the tragic circumstances that impacted her emotional performance in the song’s video. Knight declines to counter with her own Licence to Kill theme, instead going with the Claudine soundtrack jam “Make Yours a Happy Home” — a fine choice, but hard to compete with Patti’s powerhouse performance.
WINNER: Patti LaBelle
Round 3: Patti LaBelle’s “Stir It Up” vs. Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Every Beat of My Heart”
“It’s kinda corny but I love it!” Patti admits of her second-best-remembered Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack single. “Stir It Up” is certainly a fun flashback, but not as fun as Gladys going all the way back to the beginning — to 1961, when her group was simply known as The Pips, and they hit the Hot 100’s top 10 for the first of many times to come with the Johnny Otis-penned ballad “Every Beat of My Heart.” Still impossibly smooth nearly 60 years later.
WINNER: Gladys Knight
Round 4: Patti LaBelle’s “When You’ve Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven)” vs. Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “On and On”
An edited-for-time version of Patti’s early-’90s superballad “When You’ve Been Blessed” throws her for a loop slightly, but she picks it up in time to stun with a cappella vocals over the song’s fade out. Knight dips back into the Claudine soundtrack with the supremely funky “On & On,” written (like the whole OST) by the similarly legendary Curtis Mayfield. “We gotta [keep going],” Knight comments after. “Long as he keeps giving us the breath, the love, the spirit, and the talent!”
WINNER: Gladys Knight
Round 5: Patti LaBelle’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Live)” vs. Gladys Knight’s “Licence to Kill”
After it was originally written for her group Labelle — they never recorded it, and it became a massive hit for fellow Philly stars Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes — Patti made the all-timer ballad “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” her own during her live show in the 1980s. Here, Patti and Gladys both harmonize gorgeously over the live recording of the former’s rendition, one of the evening’s most goosebump-inducing moments. Gladys chooses now to pull out her Bond theme, and it still sounds mighty, but she’s already helped secure this round for Patti.