Patti Austin was born in Harlem, New York and grew up in Bay Shore on Long Island. Her father was a Jazz musician.
She made her debut at the Apollo Theater at age four and had a contract with RCA Records when she was five. Quincy Jones and Dinah Washington have proclaimed themselves as her godparents.
By the late 1960s Austin was a session musician and commercial jingle singer. During the 1980s, signed to Jones’s Qwest Records, she began her most prolific hit-making period. By this time she was both one of the leading background session vocalists, appearing on numerous famous albums by other artists, and also was known as Queen of The Jingles appearing on jingles for Burger King, Almay make-up, Avon, KFC, McDonalds, Meow Mix, Impulse, Stouffers, Maxwell House and the United States Army.
She charted twenty R&B songs between 1969 and 1991 and had success on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, where she hit number one in 1981 with “Do You Love Me?” / “The Genie”. The album containing that hit, Every Home Should Have One, also produced her biggest mainstream hit. “Baby, Come to Me”, a duet with James Ingram, initially peaked at number 73 on the Hot 100 in early 1982.
After being featured as the love theme in a prominent storyline on the soap opera General Hospital, the song re-entered the pop chart in October and went to number one in February 1983. The single was certified Gold by the RIAA. She would later team up again with Ingram for “How Do You Keep The Music Playing”. That year, Austin’s single “It’s Gonna Be Special” was featured on the soundtrack for the Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta film Two of a Kind. Though the film was not the major success envisioned for the re-teaming of the Grease stars, the soundtrack went Platinum and Austin’s single, produced by Quincy Jones, became one of her highest-profile hits. “It’s Gonna Be Special” peaked at #5 on the Dance charts, #15 on the R&B charts, and charted on the Hot 100 in 1984.
The song also appeared on her self-titled album of that year, and its follow-up single, “Rhythm of the Street”, remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez, narrowly missed Billboard’s Dance Top Ten, though it peaked higher on Hi-NRG charts. The two songs were featured on a double-A-side 12″ single. For “Rhythm of the Street” Austin shot her first music video.
Next Austin released her third album in three years entitled Gettin’ Away With Murder. In addition to the title track, she had two more hit singles, “Honey For The Bees” (#24 R&B and #6 Dance) and “The Heat of Heat”. Produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, noted for their later work with Janet Jackson, the latter track returned Austin to the top 15 of the R&B charts for what would be the last time to date. It would also be her last Hot 100 charting to date, although she would score a top-5 dance hit with the single Reach that appeared originally on her 1994 CD That Secret Place (GRP Records). “Gettin’ Away With Murder” used producers Russ Titelman, Tommy LiPuma, Monte Moir (of “The Time”), and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Billy Joel (Austin sang background on his “Just The Way You Are”), Dan Hartman, friends Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown, along with Chaka Khan were among the background vocalists on the project, with successful songwriters, Randy Goodrum, Michael Bolton, Jam & Lewis plus several other big name writers offering up their best compositions on what was likely a big budget affair.
She next appeared with Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen in Francis Ford Coppola’s critically acclaimed period piece Tucker: The Man and his Dream (1988). That year, Austin released The Real Me, a collection of standards which garnered her the first of several Top 10 showings on the Jazz Albums chart. “The Real Me” was chiefly produced by David Pack who had been a part of the Pop group Ambrosia. Austin served as a co-producer and as Executive Producer on the project. Austin sang “It’s the Falling in Love” with Michael Jackson on his album Off The Wall. Other duet partners include George Benson (“Moody’s Mood for Love” and “Keep Your Dreams Alive”), and Luther Vandross (“I’m Gonna Miss You In The Morning”).
Earlier she’d recorded featured duets with Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons on “Our Day Will Come” and “Swearin’ To God” with little billing. Austin also sang lead and background vocals on many contemporary Jazz instrumentalists’ records in the 1970s. In 1985 she sang lead vocals on a collaboration with her producer, Narada Michael Walden, and the single, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme”, went top 40 on the R&B charts. In 1991, she recorded the duet “You Who Brought Me Love” with music legend Johnny Mathis, which was received with critical acclaim. That same year she was invited to be a guest on a Johnny Mathis television special that was broadcast across North America.
In 2003, Austin collaborates with legendary Asian artist Frances Yip from Hong Kong in Papillon III at the Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall to benefit the Jade Ribbon Campaign of Stanford University. A companion CD/DVD was released in conjunction with the event featuring Austin and Yip’s duets of many classic Chinese numbers sung in Mandarin directed and arranged by music director Carlton Liu.
Austin led a new group of Raelettes for the 2006 album Ray Charles + Count Basie Orchestra. That group also featured veteran session singer Valerie Pinkston and members of the group Perry.
During a 2007 interview promoting her latest recording, Austin reflected how as a teenager she reluctantly attended one of Judy Garland’s last concerts and the experience helped focus her career, stating “She (Judy Garland) ripped my heart out. I wanted to interpret a lyric like that, to present who I was at the moment through the lyric.”
In 2007 Patti Austin participated in the Avo Session Basel with a program dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald.
In 2008, fifty-three years after getting her first record contract, Patti Austin was awarded her first Grammy Award, winning Best Jazz Vocal Album for Avant Gershwin at the 50th annual Grammy Awards. The award came for her ninth nomination in that category.
Austin is co-producer and one of over 70 artists singing on “We Are the World: 25 for Haiti”, a charity single in aid of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
In 2011 Austin released a mostly covers album project titled “Sound Advice” which contained re-works of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”, Brenda Russell’s “A Little Bit Of Love”, a lesser known Jacksons tune, “Give It Up,” her tribute to late friend/collaborator, Michael Jackson, a cover of Bill Withers, “Lean On Me” which she first sang at a milestone birthday for her Godfather Quincy Jones. Also on “Sound Advice” standout performances of Don McLean’s “Vincent” (aka Starry Starry Night) and a deeply female take on “My Way.” Austin wrote the anthemic “The Grace Of God” after watching an episode of the old “Oprah Winfrey Show” which featured a facially scarred woman … Keeping relevant, Austin offered the bouncy slice of Pop/Rock/RandB “Round And Round” including the latest trendy vocal effects, though Austin remains one singer who clearly needs no such production techniques to cover a crystal clear, flexible, and knowing voice imitated by many, duplicated by none. Austin co-wrote and sings in the star-studded L.O.V.E. – Let One Voice Emerge, encouraging especially younger Americans to get out there and exercise their right to vote.
Austin appears in the Academy Award-winning documentary film 20 Feet from Stardom (2013), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released on 21 June 2013.
That Secret Place
GRP Records 1994
Tracks: That’s Enough for Me, Ability to Swing, Somebody Make Me Laugh, Broken Dreams, Rock Steady, Captivated, Hurry Home, That Secret Place, Reach & Stars in Your Eyes.
Musicians on the That Secret Place album: Patti Austin, Steve Ferrone, Melvin Davis, Lee Ritenour, Bob James, Greg Phillinganes, Randy Kerber, Dave Withman, Paulinho Da Costa, Gerald Albright, Jerry Hey, Gary Grant, Dan Higgins, Bill Reichenbach, Lani Groves, Mervyn Warren, Phil Perry, El DeBarge, Tata Vega & Perri Sisters.
GRP Records 1992
Too I Can Cook, Love Is Gonna Getcha, It Might Be You, Baby Come to Me, How Do You Keep the Music Playing, Do You Love Me?, We’re All in This Together, Through the Test of Time & Whether to Laugh or Cry (Don’t Know).
Musicians on the Live album: Patti Austin, Paul Pesco , Vincent Henry, Bette Sussman, Shelton Becton, Oji Pierce, Zev Katz, Tony Cintron, Debra Byrd, Dennis Collins, Adriane Lenox, David Mann & Onaje Allan Gumbs.
GRP Records 1991
Tracks: Carry On, Givin’ In To Love, I Will Remember You, How Can I Be Sure, Why Did She Come In With You, I Just Can’t Let Go, Monday Monday, The More I Think About It, Nobody To Dance With, I’ll Be Waiting For You & (Don’t Know) Whether To Laugh Or Cry.
Musicians on the Carry On Album: Patti Austin, George Perilli, Nathan East, David Pack, Greg Phillinganes, Wayne Linsey, Larry Williams, David Benoit, Burleigh Drummond, Terry McMillan, Michael Paulo, Michael McDonald, James Ingram & Lynn Davis.
Love Is Gonna Getcha
GRP Records 1990
Tracks: Through The Test Of Time, Too Soon To Know, In My Life, Love Is Gonna Getcha, Ooh-Whee (The Carnival), Believe The Children, Good In Love, Wait For Me, First Time In Love, In My Dream & The Girl Who Used To Be Me.
Musicians on the Love Is Gonna Getcha album: Patti Austin, Harvey Mason, Jeff Porcaro, Nathan East, Neil Stubenhaus, Lee Ritenour, Mike Landau, Greg Phillinganes, Dave Grusin, David Paich, Steve Porcaro, Michael Fisher, Lenny Castro, Ernie Watts, Nelson Rangell, Jocelyn Brown, Robin Beck, Lani Groves, James Williams & Bill Eaton.
The Real Me
Qwest Records 1988
Tracks: I Can Cook Too, Stockholm Sweetnin’, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, True Love, Across the Alley from the Alamo, How Long Has This Been Going On? – (live), Lazy Afternoon, Love Letters, They Can’t Take That Away from Me, Mood Indigo, Cry Me a River & Someone Is Standing Outside.
Musicians on the Real Me album: Patti Austin, Vinnie Colaiuta, George Perilli, Jeff Porcaro, John Robinson, Nathan East, Chuck Domanico, David Pack, Earl Klugh, Michael McDonald, Richard Tee, David Benoit, Greg Phillinganes, Paulinho Da Costa, Ernie Watts, Michael Brecker, Jerry Hey, Bill Reichenbach, Gary Grant, Daniel Higgins & James Ingram.
Getting Away With Murder
Qwest Records 1985
Tracks: Talkin’ Bout My Baby, Big Bad World, The Heat Of The Heat, If I Believed, Honey For The Bees, Gettin’ Away With Murder, Anything Can Happen Here, Only A Breath Away & Summer Is The Coldest Time Of Year.
Musicans on the Getting Away With Murder album: Patti Austin, Paul Jackson Jr., Michael Landau, Tony Maiden, Ira Siegel, Abraham Laboriel, Neil Stubenhaus, Robbie Buchanan, Randy Goodrum, Patrick Henderson, Robbie Kilgore, Tony Lewis, Jeff Lorber, John Mahoney, Monte Moir, Herb Pilhofer, Todd Yvega, Steve Ferrone, Gordon Knudtson, Bob Riley, Richard Scher, Paulinho Da Costa, Jimmy Jam, Tony Lewis, Ralph MacDonald, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Lee Blasky, Bob James, Jocelyn Brown, Gordon Grody, Lani Groves, Dan Hartman, Billy Joel, Chaka Khan, Lucia Newell, Russ Titelman & Luther Vandross
Qwest Records 1984
Tracks: It’s Gonna Be Special, Rhythm Of The Street, All Behind Us Now, Hot! In The Flames Of Love, Change Your Attitude, Shoot The Moon, I’ve Got My Heart Set On You, Fine Fine Fella, Starstruck & Any Way You Can.
Musicians on the Patti Austin album: Patti Austin, Narada Michael Walden, John Robinson, Ollie Brown, Randy Jackson, Nathan East, Cornelius Mims, Chuck Domanico, Clif Magness, Corrado Rustici, David Pack, Paul Jackson, Zane Giles, John Van Tongeren, David Sancious, Greg Phillinganes, Tom Faragher, John Barnes, Larry Williams, Paulinho Da Costa, Ernie Watts, Marc Russo, Jerry Hey, Kim Hutchcroft, Gary Grant, Bill Reichenbach, Myrna Matthews, Preston Glass, Angela Bofill, Jim Gilstrap, Phillip Ingram, Sheree Brown & Josie James.
In My Life
CTI Records 1983
Tracks: In My Life, What’s At The End Of The Rainbow, Say You Love Me, Iko Iko, I Can’t Stop, Body Language, You Don’t Have To Say You’re Sorry, More Today Than Yesterday & We’ve Got Tonight.
Musicians on the In My Life album: Patti Austin and others.
Everyhome Should Have One
Qwest Records 1981
Tracks: Do You Love Me?, Love Me to Death, The Way I Feel, Every Home Should Have One, Come to Me Baby, The Genie, Look Listen Stop, Symphony of Love, Margarita Oh No & The Island.
Musicians on the Every Home Should Have One album: Patti Austin, Chris Parker, John Robinson, Anthony Jackson, Louis Johnson, Eddie Watkins, Eric Gale, Steve Lukather, Richard Tee, Bob James, Greg Phillinganes, Michael Boddicker, David Foster, Hillary James, Rod Temperton, Paulinho Da Costa, Ralph MacDonald, Ernie Watts & James Ingram.
CTI Records 1980
Tracks: Body Language, Another Nail for My Heart, S.O.S., We’ve Got Tonight, He’s Killing Me (Ooh-Wee), I Can’t Stop, Love Me Again, Soar Me Like an Eagle Flies, People in Love (Do the Strangest Things) & I Want You Tonight.
Musicians on the Body Language album: Patti Austin, Rodger Hawkins, David Hood, Will Lee, Duncan Cameron, John Tropea, Randy McCormack, Jeremy Wall, Mickey Buckins, Michael Brecker, Jeremy Dodgion, Randy Brecker, Jim Pugh, Ava Aldridge, Marie Tomlinson Clark & Cindy Richardson.
Live at the Bottom Line
CTI Records 1979
Tracks: Jump For You, Let It Ride, One More Night, Wait A Little While, Rider In The Rain, You´re The One That I Want, Love Me By Name, You Fooled Me, Spoken Introductions & Let´s All Live And Give Together.
Musicians on the Live at the Bottom Line album: Patti Austin, Michael Brecker, Pat Rebillot, Leon Pendarvis Jr., David Spinnoza, Will Lee, Charles Collins, Errol Bennett, Babi Floyd, Frank Floyd & Ullanda McCullough.
CTI Records 1977
Tracks: That’s Enough For Me, Little Baby, I Just Want To Know, Havana Candy, Golden Oldies, I Need Somebody, We’re In Love & Lost In The Stars.
Musicians on the Havana Candy album: Patti Austin, Steve Jordan, Will Lee, Anthony Jackson, Steve Kahn, Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken, Richard Tee, Dave Grusin, Ralph MacDonald, Michael Brecker, Alan Rubin, Marvin Stamm, Wayne Andre, Gerry Niewood, Lou Marini, Ronnie Cuber, Lani Groves, Gwen Guthrie, Yolanda McCullough & Ken Williams.
End Of A Rainbow
CTI Records 1976
Tracks: Say You Love Me, In My Life, You Don’t Have To Say You’re Sorry, More Today Than Yesterday, Give It Time, There Is No Time, What’s At The End Of The Rainbow, This Side Of Heaven & Sweet Sadie The Savior.
Musicians on the End Of A Rainbow album: Patti Austin, Will Lee, Jeff Berlin, Chuck Rainey, Eric Gale, Steve Khan, Richard Tee, Barry Miles, Ralph MacDonald, Mike Brecker, Ronnie Cuber, Joe Farrell, Randy Brecker, Vivian Cherry, Frank Floyd, Gwen Guthrie & Zachary Sanders.