Holloway began singing gospel with her mother in the Holloway Community Singers and recorded with Albertina Walker in the Caravans gospel group. Holloway was also a cast member of the Chicago troupe of Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope. Around this time, she met her future producer, manager, and husband Floyd Smith, and recorded "Rainbow ’71" in 1971, a Curtis Mayfield song that Gene Chandler had recorded in 1963. It was initially released on the Apache label, but shortly thereafter, it got picked up for national distribution by Galaxy Records.
In the early 1970s, Holloway signed a recording contract with the Atlanta-based soul music label Aware, part of the General Recording Corporation (GRC), owned by Michael Thevis. Holloway recorded two albums for the label, both of them produced by Floyd Smith—Loleatta (1973) and Cry to Me (1975). Holloway later married Smith. Her first single from the second album, the ballad "Cry to Me" rose to #10 Billboard R&B and #68 on the Hot 100, but before the label could really establish Holloway, it went out of business.
Top Philadelphia arranger and producer Norman Harris signed Holloway in 1976 for his new label, Gold Mind, a subsidiary of New York's Salsoul Records. The first release from the albumLoleatta was another Sam Dees ballad, "Worn-Out Broken Heart," which reached #25 R&B, but the B-side, "Dreaming," climbed to #72 on the pop chart and launched her as a disco act. She contributed vocals to "Re-Light My Fire" for Dan Hartman, who then wrote and produced the title track of her fourth and final album for Gold Mind, "Love Sensation" (1980). Eighteen songs of hers charted on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, including four #1s. However, it was a ballad that proved to be another big R&B hit for her. "Only You" was written and produced by Bunny Sigler, who also sang with Holloway on the track, and it reached #11 in 1978.
In the early 1980s, she had another dance hit with "Crash Goes Love" (#5 on the U.S. Dance chart, #86 on the US R&B Chart). She also recorded one single, "So Sweet," for the fledglinghouse-music label DJ International Records. In the late 1980s, her vocals from "Love Sensation" were used in the UK #1 hit "Ride on Time" by Black Box. Holloway, however, was uncredited for her vocals, and both Holloway and her attorneys successfully sued the group, which lead to an undisclosed court settlement in Holloway's favor. In 1992, she also had a hit with dance band Cappella. There she appeared billed as Cappella featuring Lolleatta Holloway on the single "Take Me Away" (UK #25). Holloway's fortunes dramatically improved, however, when she had her first US #1 hit when Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch featured her vocals in the chart-topping "Good Vibrations" (1991). According to Andrew Barker in Variety (March 22, 2011), Holloway also performed with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to promote the single, and she received full vocal credit and a share of the royalties.
The more recent dance chart entries included "What Goes Around Comes Around" (credited to "GTS Featuring Loleatta Holloway") in 2000, and "Relight My Fire" (credited to Martin featuring Holloway), which hit #5 in 2003. While not a single, "Like a Prayer", a Madonna cover, was a track on the Madonna tribute album Virgin Voices. "Love Sensation '06," peaked at #22 in theDutch Top 40, and reached #37 on the UK Singles Chart as well as #49 in Australia.
Holloway died aged 64 on March 21, 2011 from heart failure. She is survived by her four children.