Patty Donahue onstage, 1982
|Birth name||Patricia Jean Donahue|
|Born||March 29, 1956|
|Origin||Akron, Ohio, U.S.|
|Died||December 9, 1996 (aged 40)|
New York, New York, U.S.
|Associated acts||The Waitresses|
Patricia Jean Donahue was born in Akron, Ohio, on March 29, 1956. Her parents divorced when she was two years old, and she told an interviewer that her mother raised her to be an independent woman.
Like her mother and sister, Donahue attended St. Joseph Academy in Cleveland. She studied at Ohio State University but had to drop out for financial reasons, and tried to finish at Cleveland State University but left there too, dissatisfied with the school. She eventually graduated from Kent State University. In her early 20s, prior to singing with the band, she did work as a waitress.
Donahue met Chris Butler while at Kent State. Butler was in the art rock band Tin Huey but he had written a number of songs that were not used in their repertoire. As he later explained in the liner notes of The Best of the Waitresses (1990), he met Donahue in a barroom challenge: "One day I write this song, and then its noon and the liquid lunchers are packed into a ... bar. I stand on a chair and bang a beer bottle for attention and declare: 'I need a chanteuse to coo a tune. The song is funny and stupid and cool and different, and is anybody interested?' A voice in the back says 'uh-huh.' It's Patty."
Donahue was counted among the new breed of performers who developed a new standard for women in rock music during the new wave era. Although Chris Butler was the leader and songwriter, fans and music journalists often singled out Donahue as the band's primary asset. Butler wrote the lyrics but, as Rolling Stone asserted, "Donahue is no pop-band puppet". She rejected the notion that she was simply singing another person's words: "I'm relating my experiences too" she told an interviewer; "He wrote the songs but I'm not just singing what he feels". Syndicated music columnist Hugh Wyatt considered her an exceptional artist despite her lack of formal training, calling her "one of only a handful of rock singers who has truly harnessed the attitudinal approach of post-punk".
During the recording of the second and final Waitresses' album Bruiseology, Donahue left the band and was replaced by Holly Beth Vincent. Donahue rejoined afterward. Donahue was sought personally by Alice Cooper to duet with him on the single "I Like Girls". He exuberantly told an interviewer: "I'd be driving in the car ... and every time I'd want to turn up the radio, it was Patty Donahue." "I Like Girls" appears on Cooper's album Zipper Catches Skin with Donahue credited for "vocals and sarcasm".
On December 9, 1996, Donahue, who had been a heavy smoker most of her adult life, died of lung cancer in New York at the age of 40. Donahue was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Brook Park, a suburb of Cleveland.
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