Patti LaBelle, one of the legendary ladies of pop music and one of the grande dames of Black music, said she had no problem turning 60 when that year arrived.
In fact, when she was in her fifties, she publicly acknowledged being a diva and pointed out that at 60 she would be “an awesome diva.”
And that she is. So are Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Tina Turner and Chaka Khan. They are, in fact, superdivas. So is Natalie Cole. Janet Jackson is getting close, as is Whitney Houston (if she can keep herself together).
What is a “superdiva”?
They are the ladies whose achievements have been nothing less than monumental. Their impact is deeper than an ocean. Their style can be imitated but never duplicated. They have so many hit records — many of them classics — that it is mind-boggling. And they have been performing and recording for three decades or more (usually more).
Superdivas are royalty.
Do any of the top ladies of song today, including Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé Knowles, Mariah Carey and Rihanna, have what it takes to become a superdiva? Time will tell.
ALICIA KEYS, currently burning up the charts and the airwaves with her new album, “The Element of Freedom,” featuring the cleverly titled “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart,” is a potent force. She also sings on Jay-Z’s superhit, “Empire State of Mind.”
The singer/pianist/songwriter/producer (real name: Alicia Cook) hit the music scene in a big way in 2001 with an album a long time in the making titled “Songs in A Minor.” In addition to going multi-Platinum and selling all over the world, the album earned five Grammy awards for Keys in 2002. One of them was the coveted Best New Artist award.
Keys has been playing piano and singing since the tender age of 7, and enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School in her native New York City.
“Songs in A Minor” was no fluke. The follow-ups, “The Diary of Alicia Keys” and the live set, “Unplugged,” were also smash hits, as was “As I Am.” Her superhit singles include “Fallin’,” “You Don’t Know My Name” and “If I Ain’t Got You.”
Keys is also a formidable actress, having appeared in several films.
MARY J. BLIGE has come a long way since her emergence in 1992 with the album “What’s the 411?” She was instantly crowned the queen of hip-hop soul. Like Keys, she hails from New York.
Not everyone is aware of the fact that Detroit’s own Anita Baker (a superstar but not quite a superdiva) figures indirectly into Blige’s career. While still in her teens, a non-professional recording Blige had made, a rendition of Baker’s “Caught Up in the Rapture,” found its way to the president/CEO of Uptown Records. She was signed in 1989, although her first album was not released until 1992. It clicked with radio and the public, and Blige was on her way.
She started out with a strong street edge, but became more sophisticated (and well-dressed) with each album release. Those albums, featuring many autobiographical songs, include “My Life,” “Share My World,” “Mary,” “No More Drama,” “Love & Life,” “The Breakthrough,” “Growing Pains” and the current “Stronger With Each Tear.”
Today, Mary J. Blige is an established star.