Dahlstrom was one of five children born in Houston. Her aspirations to become a singer were evident from an early age. Having started to make up songs in her pre-teens, she was writing frequently by the time of her adolescence, and was given to examining record sleeves for the songwriting credits while burnishing dreams of seeing her own name in such a setting. In 1967, she left Texas to pursue a career in music in Los Angeles.
After three years of struggling, Dahlstrom broke into the world of professional songwriting. She was signed to Jobete, the publishing division of Motown, where she was mentored by Berry Gordy. She also struck up a fruitful and enduring songwriting relationship with Severin Browne, brother of Jackson Browne. Russ Regan signed her to Uni Records and, in 1972, her first album, the Toxey French-produced Patti Dahlstrom, was released. Moving to 20th Century Records, which was also headed by Regan, she followed with three more albums, The Way I Am (1973), Your Place or Mine (1975), and Livin It Thru (1976), produced by Michael J Jackson and Michael Omartian, Jack Conrad and Bill Schnee, and Larry Knechtel respectively. The albums featured an impressive cast of musicians and prominently displayed Dahlstrom's gritty, engaging vocal style and her emotionally perspicacious songwriting.
Among the notable songs from Dahlstrom's 20th Century tenure was 'Sending My Good Thoughts To You', which she co-wrote with Artie Wayne, and dedicated to her friend Jim Croce. Implicit in the song's lyric is the notion of continuing a loving friendship with someone after that person's death, and this consoling message has helped it endure. In one of her most plaintive and subtly heart-rending vocal performances to date, Dahlstrom included the song on Your Place or Mine in 1975.
Despite the fact that there was no break out hit single for Dahlstrom herself, her popularity as a songwriter for other recording artists was considerable. Notable among the recordings of her work are "Ain't No Way To Rise Above (Fallin' In Love)" by Anne Murray (1982); "Running Out of World" by Cilla Black (1976); "Emotion" by Helen Reddy and Shirley Bassey; "What If", "I'm Letting Go", and "I Never Did" by Thelma Houston (1972); "Dialogue" by Michael Johnson (1979); "Feels Like More Than Dancing" by Captain and Tennille; "Over The Line" by Johnny Rivers (1973); and "Even Texas Isn't Big Enough Now" by Riders in the Sky (1986) from the album New Trails.
Dahlstrom's second album, The Way I Am, included "Emotion", a song that had arisen when Artie Wayne, Warner Brothers Publishing's General Manager, brought a copy of a Véronique Sanson album to Patti, with a view to her providing English lyrics. Dahlstrom was taken by the song "Amoureuse", and set it to her own words to form "Emotion". Confusingly, there was another contemporaneous English version of the song, with translated lyrics by Gary Osborne, which retained the title 'Amoureuse'. However, it was Dahlstrom's version, recorded by Helen Reddy, that became a US #22 and US AC #1 hit in 1974. In 2009, Véronique Sanson declared in an interview to the French magazine Platine that Dahlstrom's version remains her favorite version of Amoureuse.
In the seventies, Dahlstrom's recording career came to an end when she declined the opportunity to make a fifth album, and was, by her own request, released from her contract. She cited exhaustion among the reasons for the decision. Years later, Russ Regan publicly disclosed his surprise and confusion that Dahlstrom's albums had not been high-profile successes, saying, "In my career there are two female singer/songwriters who I signed, that should've been stars, Patti Dahlstrom and Harriet Schock". She continued to pursue songwriting through the seventies and eighties, as well as branching out into photography. Photographic assignments included working on set with Robert Altman and shooting an album cover and 1978 tour book for John Denver. Returning to Texas in 1990, Dahlstrom taught songwriting at The Art Institute of Houston before swiftly being made Department Director. In addition to teaching, she pursued studies of her own, including a degree in Liberal Arts. Following a birthday trip to England in 2007, Dahlstrom decided to move to London in 2008, undertaking a Masters in Professional Writing. She lived there until 2011, when she was convinced to pick up and move to San José del Cabo, Mexico.
In March 2010, the CD Emotion - The Music of Patti Dahlstrom was released by Rev-ola. The 20 track compilation, drawing on Dahlstrom's four albums, was the culmination of renewed internet-based interest in her music, which had been mounting for several years. The package contained a 24-page booklet with essay by Mick Patrick, revitalised sound quality consequent to work by Norman Blake and Joe Foster, and design and artwork by Andy Morten. Engineering was by Nick Robbins. Norman Seeff's striking photographs of Dahlstrom were used throughout. The compilation scored a four-star review by Kingsley Abbott in Record Collector magazine.Patti Dahlstrom (UNI 73127, 1972)
Produced and Arranged by Toxey French. String Quartet and Background Vocals Arranged by Michael Omartian. Guitar/Leader: Ben Benay. Keyboards: Michael Omartian, Jerry Peters. Drums: Joel O'Brien, Gene Pello, Toxey French. Bass: Jerry Scheff, Jack Conrad. Congas: King Errison. Tenor Sax: Jim Horn. Strings: Tibor Zellig, Harry Hyams, Jesse Ehrlich. Concertmaster: Sid Sharp. Background Vocals: Billie Barnum, Julia Tillman, Oma Drake. Photography: Ed Caraeff. Art Direction and Design: Virginia Clark.The Way I Am (20th Century T421, 1973)
Produced by Michael J Jackson and Michael Omartian. Guitars: Larry Carlton, Dean Parks, Ned Doheny, David Spinoza, David Lindley. Keyboards: Michael Omartian, Craig Doerge, David Spinoza, Michael Utley. Drums: Jim Gordon, Gary Mallaber. Congas: Jim Gordon. Bass: Jack Conrad, Bryan Garafalo, Leland Sklar. Sax, Flutes, Clarinets: Tom Scott. Flugelhorn and Flute Arranged by: Clarence McDonald. Strings Arranged by: Michael Omartian, David Campbell, Norman Kurban. Background Vocals: Patti Dahlstrom, Don Dunn. Photography: Ed Caraeff. Design: David Larkham and Michael Ross for Tepee Graphics.Your Place Or Mine (20th Century T461, 1975)
Produced by Jack Conrad and Bill Schnee. Guitars: Dean Parks, Al Staehely, Art Munson, Freddy Tackett, Steve Cropper, Jay Grayson, Al Casey. Keyboards: Larry Knechtel, Michael Utley, Andy Cahan, George Clinton. Drums: David Kemper, Gary Mallaber, Jim Keltner. Bass: Jack Conrad, David Hungate, Klaus Voorman. Banjo, Fiddle, Slide: David Lindley. Accordion: Nick DeCaro. Horns: Jim Horn, Chuck Findley, Jackie Kelso, Lon Van Eaton. Flute: Jim Horn. Percussion: Steve Foreman, Milt Holland. Strings Arranged by: [[Jimmie Haskell]], David Foster. Concertmaster: Sid Sharp. Background Vocals: Patti Dahlstrom, Don Dunn, Ray Kennedy, Chuck Higgens. Horns Arranged by Jim Horn. Photography: Buddy Rosenberg, Bob Levy. Art Direction: Queens Graphics.Livin' It Thru (20th Century T521, 1976)
Produced by Larry Knechtel. Cast: Mike Baird, Ben Benay, Gary Coleman, Jack Conrad, Jay Cooper, Michael Deasy, Daryl Dragon, Don Dunn, Chuck Findley, Bernie Grundman, Jimmie Haskell, Duitch Helmer, Jim Horn, Jackie Kelso, Larry Knechtel, Shelly Knechtel, Jeff Porcaro, Russ Regan, Jerry Scheff, Norman Seeff, Sid Sharp etc., Bob Siller, Melissa Tennille, Toni Tennille, Gary Ulmer, Al Staehely.Emotion - The Music of Patti Dahlstrom (Rev-Ola Rev 299, 2010)
Compilation drawn from the previous four albums, with the track listing: 1. Emotion (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Véronique Sanson) Warner Bros Music Corp 2 He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Al Staehely) Patti Dahlstrom Music/Camp Music Co 3 Sending My Good Thoughts To You (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom and Artie Wayne) Patti Dahlstrom Music/Warner Bros Music Corp 4 Get Along Handsome (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Severin Browne) Jobete Music Co, Inc 5 This Isn't An Ordinary Love Song (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom) Jobete Music Co, Inc 6 Without Love (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Al Staehely) Esperadora Music/Camp Music 7 And I Never Did (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom) Jobete Music Co, Inc 8 Changing Minds (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Larry Knechtel) Esperadora Music 9 Give Him Time (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom) Jobete Music Co, Inc 10 Ollabelle And Slim (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom) Jobete Music Co, Inc 11 Cleveland Snow (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Severin Browne) Jobete Music Co, Inc 12 Comfortable (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Robbie Leff) Jobete Music Co, Inc 13 Wait Like A Lady (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom) Jobete Music Co, Inc 14 For Everybody's Sake (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom) Patti Dahlstrom Music 15 I'm Letting Go (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Severin Browne) Jobete Music Co, Inc 16 Innate (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Severin Browne) Jobete Music Co, Inc 17 One Afternoon (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Severin Browne) Esperadora Music/Abbey San Encino Press 18 Rider (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom) Jobete Music Co, Inc 19 The Way I Am (Words: Patti Dahlstrom/Music: Severin Browne) Jobete Music Co, Inc 20 What If (Words and Music: Patti Dahlstrom) Jobete Music Co, Inc