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Sarah Dash (1945–2021), singer who co-founded Labelle

by Linnea Crowther

Sarah Dash was a singer who was a founding member of Labelle, best known for their 1974 hit “Lady Marmalade.”

Labelle

Dash began singing with Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sundray Tucker in the early 1960s, forming the girl group the Ordettes. They evolved to become the Bluebelles, then Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, and finally renamed themselves to Labelle in the early ‘70s. The group had several minor hits in their earlier days, including “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” in 1962 and “Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song)” in 1963. But it was as Labelle that they achieved major fame, after retooling their look and sound. They added a funk vibe and began dressing in space-age costumes. Labelle became influential on the development of disco, as well as scoring a No. 1 hit with the suggestive song “Lady Marmalade.” Just a few years after their biggest success, Labelle broke up, though Dash would reunite with her former bandmates in later years for albums and tours.

Solo career

After Labelle’s 1977 breakup, Dash began a solo career. She had dance club hits with “Sinner Man,” “Ohh La La, Too Soon,” and “Lucky Tonight.” Dash toured with the Rolling Stones in the 1980s as well as touring and recording with Keith Richards. In the 1990s, she toured with her one-woman show, Dash of Diva.

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Dash on the popularity of “Lady Marmalade”

“I think there was a renaissance going on. The height of Civil Rights was still going on, Women’s Rights were coming to power… In New York, gay people, gay rights were emerging, and it was a big creative force. You know, word of mouth goes further than any newspaper. The song was the beginning of disco and the first song that was promoted in discos to the DJ’s. We’d all gone to the clubs before and we’d party all night. The Garage and …. The Continental Baths. It was like a communal gravity, a movement!” —from a 2021 interview for the Library of Congress

Tributes to Sarah Dash

Full obituary: The Hollywood Reporter

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