Patty LaBelle-Gladys Knight Verzuz was a gift

The nights Verzuz There was a celebration, a reunion, a treat.
Photo-illustration: Vulture and Shutterstock

For months, Verzuz, music The fight series from Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, have maintained our quarantine. The catalogs, or singers, or producers, go head-to-head, song-by-song. Men have had notable battles – RZA vs. DJ Premier, Babyface vs. Teddy Riley, Kirk Franklin vs. Fred Hammond – but when women take over VerzuzWe get the best shows. Brandi and Monica serve dual friendly (and not so friendly) jabs, Erika Badu and Jill Scott Stuck face. On Sunday night, September 13, the series was the “Aunty” version: Patti LaBelle vs. Gladys Knight. Cold Greens practically made themselves.

“One thing black women have to do is hold on,” read my favorite Night tweet. For the first 30 minutes of the fight, LaBelle and Knight update their families, mutual friends, each other on their own going-on. Each reported that they are separated at the age of one year and share 150 years between them; They have known each other for their entire professional lives. Over the next two hours at Livestream, they will remember, reminisce, laugh, and stand to dance. Each woman knew the other’s catalog as well as she knew it; The two did not really accept to know what the incident of the night was and they needed a younger family member to convince them to do it. “Someone called me and said, ‘will you VerzuzThe LaBelle said. “I said, ‘With whom? You know you have to have a partner.’ He said, ‘Gladys Knight.’ You are the best person in the world to do this to me! ”Those were the stakes of the night. This was not an anthem against an anthem or a hit: it was a reunion.

Gladys regrets that her voice was not as loud as she used to be, but she was still hitting those notes nonetheless. Patty complained that the engineer was not loading her teleprompter quickly and that she did not remember a few words from her songs. They both used to sing each other’s hit songs. It was never really a competition, but Gladys was more prepared. (In the interest of full disclosure: between the ages of 4 and 7, I wanted to be Patty LaBelle when I was growing up. It’s hard for me to accept this defeat.) She did her hit films better and played the funky Posted. Claudin Soundtrack as a whole; Patti didn’t really get points on the board until she let loose “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” in five rounds, wasting too many rounds on songs that couldn’t compete. Her Sesame Street “ABC,” “New Day,” “Sounds Like Each Other,” and “Lady Marmalade” – two of those songs deserved more prominent space, and “Wap-of-Its-Generation” Lady . Marmalade “could have been his strong hit – too late in the game. Perhaps Aretha Franklin’s soul was in the control room: Patty’s songs were played for a fraction of Gladys, and technical difficulties made the medley quiet, strangely Mixed with and doubly confused.

But both of these are personalities who know how to perform a good performance. Patty’s chair was adorned with Louis Wighton’s tights with a red-bottom heel. More than once, she took out a gilded vintage-looking handheld mirror to dramatically test her makeup. Gladys was dressed as a dreamy human disco ball in a razor-colored sequin suit. Now don’t start jerking her shoulders to “Love Overboard”! In a second, she leapt to do choreography to the 33-year-old.

I identify as an aunt. I watch a lot of melodrama, I love soul food (but can’t cook it!), I usually go to bed at a reasonable time, kids can’t walk into my house, three mid 2000’s on me Whitney Houston songs of the decade are go-to party playlists, soon I will start carrying those candies. I spend an embarrassing time on YouTube watching the performance of the old awards-show that brings it out of the house; Quarantine times three months. The early Avgates had a lot of award shows, with Whitney and Mary J and Artha and Patty and Gladys and Diane and Chaka having multiple opportunities to be on the same stage to try and revive each other’s hits. When I was younger, I used to delay watching this show with my aunt. Oprah’s Legend BallSunday Brunch, since 2005, is a masterwork: almost every black female singer I heard on the way to school, on the stereo before dinner, on both grandmothers’ porches, spontaneously joined the gospel song. “(It is a crime that footage from this brunch is not aired, broadcast every Sunday on the Oprah Winfrey Network.) Gladys-Patti. Verzuz The closest we are to experiencing it again in real time.

“Anyway, I really miss those days, when there were always 25 black days in a room and nobody knew where to look because everyone could bring the house down,” I wrote in February 2017. Wrote for the site, when Robert Brown and I had the opportunity to fan the flames of Black Music’s best Diva rivalry. I felt that on Sunday even more strongly than before. The nights Verzuz There was a celebration, a reunion, a treat. But rooted in those demonstrations, I felt, we were knowing that we didn’t know how long that generation would be with us, and that we lost so many of them so quickly to an epidemic that adversely affected black people Affects. There are no words for that. But on Sunday I did not have to sit with that fear and worry and uncertainty. I could see Miss Patty singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, kicking on her heel, accidentally hitting her knees, and still smiling.