Spectropop remembers

EDWARD PATTEN (1939 - 2005)

Edward Patten of Gladys Knight & the Pips, who had lived in Detroit since 1964 when the outfit joined Motown Records, died recently at St. Mary Hospital in Livonia. He was 65 and had been in ill health since a series of strokes beginning in 1995 left him unable to sing.

Besides singing bass and then tenor - his voice had incredible range - on harmonies backing up the Pips' lead singer, Gladys Knight, Edward Patten also served as one of the group's choreographers as well as the treasurer who made sure that promoters paid and that the travel and accommodation plans were set. "When Edward and Langston George became part of the group, we danced a whole 'nother way," said William Guest, one of the original Pips. "He was that type of guy. He made sure that we did things right. We called him Daddy Patten. He was no more than two to three years older than me and a year older than Langston, but we respected him." Patten, Guest and Knight are cousins.

Renee Ivory Patten said she met her husband to be in 1965 at Bishop College in Dallas where she was a student. She was helping to set up for a concert that night and the Pips came through to do a sound check. "He, Bubba (Knight's brother Merald) and William walked through the auditorium," she said. "Edward told them, 'That's going to be my wife - don't go near her.' He was persistent." The two married in 1968 and bought a home in Detroit's Sherwood Forest neighborhood, where they raised their three children and frequently hosted his other four children from an earlier marriage and relationships.

The Pips formed in Atlanta during the early 1950s with three women and two men, Guest said. The group became Gladys Knight & the Pips after a promoter in Atlanta released a recording of their song "Every Beat Of My Heart" without having a contract with the Pips. Another record company that also wanted to release the song said the group had to change its name.

The group became a prominent part of the Motown music scene into the 1970s with hits such as "Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)" and "Midnight Train To Georgia". Their string of pop soul hits from 1967 to 1971 also included "Everybody Needs Love", "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "It Should Have Been Me" and "Friendship Train". Gladys Knight & the Pips won four Grammys and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Besides his wife, Edward Patten is survived by three daughters; Stephanie, Sonya and Renee Ishanta Patten; sons Stephen, Elliott and Edward Patten II and Darrin Skinner; and seven grandchildren. His funeral took place at the New Prospect Baptist Church in Detroit.

Jack Kreksnak - Detroit Free Press

Edward Patten, singer: born August 2nd, 1939 - died February 25th, 2005.