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Patti LaBelle fumbles lyrics during Tina Turner tribute at BET Awards: 'I'm trying, y'all!'

By the time the second verse of "The Best" rolled around, LaBelle started riffing.

Tina Turner's legacy lives on.

On Sunday, June 25, Patti LaBelle took the stage at the BET Awards 2023 to remember the late singer with a performance of some of her greatest hits.

LaBelle's performance began on a high energy note. The singer came on the stage, the audience got to their feet and the opening chords of Turner's 1989 song "The Best" strummed.

As the song went on, the background singer moved ahead of LaBelle's singing, as if she had forgotten the words. She acknowledged the discrepancy mid-performance.

"I'm trying, y'all," she said, before getting on track with the recognizable chorus.

When the second verse began, the background vocals once again raced ahead of LaBelle. She offered an explanation as she riffed above the song: "Whatever, I can't see the words, I don't know. I don't know. I'm trying y'all," she said. The camera panned the audience looking amused.

LaBelle hooked it on again with the chorus, going full-throttle as the audience sang and danced along.

LaBelle took the challenges in stride. By the end, when a chorus of background singers joined her on stage, everyone was in sync.

The performance followed the award show’s In Memoriam segment, honoring Jacky Oh, Bernard Shaw, Harry Belafonte, Trugoy the Dove, Franco Harris and more.

BET shared news of LaBelle's tribute on Friday, June 23, noting on its site that the two-time Grammy award-winning singer would perform during the live awards show.

"LaBelle will honor the incomparable Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, showcasing her incredible talent and capturing the essence of Turner’s unparalleled legacy in a performance that promises to be nothing short of extraordinary," the statement read.

LaBelle said she was thankful for the opportunity to pay tribute to the rock legend.

“Tina was a trailblazer and someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for because of all that she overcame and all that she accomplished,” LaBelle told Rolling Stone in a statement. “She was and is everything! And I am honored that I am able to pay tribute to her in this way.” 

In late May, Turner's publicist, Bernard Doherty, confirmed that the "Proud Mary" singer died after facing a long illness in her home near Zurich, Switzerland. She was 83.

“With her, the world loses a music legend and a role model,” Doherty said.

After news broke of Turner's death, LaBelle immediately took to Instagram to pay her respects.

“Tina, the world will forever be grateful for your voice, your fearlessness, and your grace!” she wrote. “You truly are the Queen of Rock & Roll and your spirit will reign forever! Rest in eternal peace and love!”

The 2023 BET Awards, which aired live on BET from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, was emceed by Terrence J, Pretty Vee, and Big Lez. The show celebrated 50 years of hip-hop with performances by Doechii, Lil Uzi Vert, Remy Ma, Soulja Boy, Trina, Fabolous, Ying Yang Twins, DJ Unk and more.