During a 2007 interview, Austin talked about when, as a reluctant teenager, she 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."
By the late 1960s Austin was a prolific session musician and commercial jingle singer. Signed to Jones's Qwest Records in the 1980s, Austin began making hit records. 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 same 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 did not do well at the box office, 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. Its follow-up, "Rhythm of the Street," remixed by John "Jellybean" Benitez, narrowly missed Billboard's Dance Top Ten, though it peaked higher on Hi-NRG charts.
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" from her 1994 CD That Secret Place.
|In Singapore, 2005 (From Pattiaustin.com)|
She sang the duet "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"). 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.
Austin led a new group of "Raelettes" for the 2006 album Ray Charles + Count Basie Orchestra = Genius². That group also featured veteran session singer Valerie Pinkston and members of the group Perry.
In 2008, fifty-three years after getting her first record contract, Patti Austin was awarded her first Grammy, winning Best Jazz Vocal Album for Avant Gershwin at the 50th annual Grammy Awards. The award came for her ninth nomination in that category.