Sarah Dash, R&B Singer Known for Labelle’s ‘Lady Marmalade,’ Dies at 76

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Sarah Dash, R&B singer and co-founder of Labelle best known for “Lady Marmalade,” died Monday, her friend and the mayor of Trenton, Reed Gusciora, announced on his Facebook page Monday. Dash was 76.

A cause of death has yet to be released. However, Mayor Gusciora told the Trentonian that Dash complained to her family in the days leading up to her death that she wasn’t feeling well.

Patti LaBelle, whom the group was named after, took to Instagram Sunday to pay her respects.

” We were just on-stage together on Saturday and it was such a powerful and special moment! #SarahDash was an awesomely talented, beautiful, and loving soul who blessed my life and the lives of so many others in more ways than I can say,” LaBelle said as caption to a video of that moment of them on stage together the night before.

“And I could always count on her to have my back! That’s who Sarah was…a loyal friend and a voice for those who didn’t have one. She was a true giver…always serving, always sharing her talent and her time. I am heart broken, as I know all of her loved ones and fans are. But, I know that Sarah’s spirit and all that she has given to the world live on! And I pray that her precious memory brings us peace and comfort. Rest in power my dear sister. I love you always!

Mayor Gusciora wrote on Facebook: “What Sarah made was beautiful music refined by a lifetime of experience and numerous contributions to the arts and the community. What the world takes is a timeless inspiration of a woman who touched the highest peaks of stardom and never forgot where she came from “This one hurts,” he added. “While she may have passed from this life to the next, her star will never fade from this city and the hearts of its residents.”

Dash, a native of Trenton, New Jersey, was one of 13 children, born to a nurse mother and a pastor father. As a pre-teen, she formed a musical dup called the Capris, but lightning didn’t strike until the mid-’60s when she moved to Philadelphia and got together with singers Nona Hendryx, Sundray Tucker and Patricia “Patsy” Holte (AKA Patti LaBelle) and they became Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. Among their hits were “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” and “Down the Aisle.”

By 1967, the group changed their style, as well as their name, becoming Labelle. But it wasn’t until 1974 that they really struck commercial success with the hit “Lady Marmalade.” Shortly thereafter, the group split and ventured into solo careers.  

In the late ’70s and ’80s, Dash slid perfectly into the disco age with a self-titled album that brought her the Top 10 disco hit “Sinner Man” — as well as numerous TV and public appearances to promote it – and the No. 5 spot on Billboard’s Dance Chart with “Lucky Tonight.” During this time, she worked with artists like The O’Jays, The Marshall Tuck Band and joined The Rolling Stones on a world tour.  

Labelle reunited several times throughout the years, whether it be on television or for special recordings. One such recording was in 2006 for the tentatively titled, “Dear Rosa,” which was a tribute to civil rights leader Rosa Parks. Two years later, Labelle released a new album titled “Back to Now,” that including songs like “Miss Otis Regrets” and received rave reviews.

In 2016, the National R&B Music Society honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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