“Don’t get it twisted. Me and the girls did it first,” announced Patti LaBelle last night before belting out “Lady Marmalade,” the 1974 hit she performed with girl group Labelle, popularized since in karaoke clubs and by a cadre of younger artists.
Draped in a regal shawl, LaBelle was ever the diva her fans admire as the headliner for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts benefit concert at the Kennedy Center.
“I’m 68 years young,” she said, pausing in between songs to look into a mirror on the piano.
Her set included everything from “New Attitude” to “On my Own” for an audience peppered with Washington VIPs such as Attorney General Eric Holder and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
The concert raised funds for the only public school in the nation’s capital providing professional arts training, now celebrating its 40th anniversary.
At the benefit’s cocktail reception, guests reflected on their own musical talents.
O’Malley sings and plays guitar in his band O’Malley’s March, adding that he recently performed Bruce Springsteen’s “Death to my Hometown” at a gig in his hometown of Baltimore.
Howard Woolley, senior vice president for strategic alliances and wireless policy for Verizon Communications Inc, said he played a number of musical instruments as part of his education at the now defunct Downtown Community School in Greenwich Village.
He said his mother, a dancer, instilled in him a love of the arts.
Congressman Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat, had less luck. He said his father tried to teach him to sing the family’s favorite Irish tunes, though they never quite sank in.
Ditto for Sean O’Keefe, chairman and chief executive of EADS North America.
“I couldn’t carry a tune in a bag,” O’Keefe said.
Jim Belushi & the Sacred Hearts Band took to the stage at the Washington Convention Center Saturday night for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual ball, now in its 26th year as one of the largest fundraisers in Washington.
This year’s event was dubbed “Saturday Night Blues” in honor of Belushi and “Saturday Night Live” comedian Dana Carvey.
After the three-course dinner, Carvey, employing his gift of mimicry, poked fun of everyone from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama.
“How many one percenters are there out there? Raise your hands.” Carvey’s request was given a sheepish response by the black-tie crowd. The event, with almost 2,000 guests, raised nearly $3 million for the society and the estimated 1 million Americans suffering from blood related cancers.
Belushi’s strategy was more direct. He dragged enthusiastic female guests onstage during his James Brown cover to show off their dance moves.
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Mark Beech on music, Martin Gayford on art, Stephanie Green’s Scene Last Night and Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater.