Sarah Dash, the singer and founder of the groundbreaking R&B group Labelle, has passed away. She was 76.
Dash was born on August 18, 1945 in Trenton, New Jersey. The daughter of a pastor, she got her start singing gospel music before moving to Philadelphia in the ’60s. After jumping between different girl groups and lineups, she joined Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Cindy Birdsong in the doo-wop quartet the Bluebelles in 1962. In 1967, Birdsong left to join the Supremes and the trio changed their name to Labelle, pivoting to funk and finding mainstream success with a series of albums released through Warner Bros. Records in the mid-’70s: Nightbirds, Phoenix, and Chameleon. Their biggest hit was ‘Lady Marmalade’, a single from Nightbirds that was recorded with Allen Toussaint in New Orleans and reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
After Labelle disbanded in 1976, Dash pursued a solo career that began with her eponymous 1978 debut, which was led by the disco hit ‘Sinner Man’. She would go on to release three more solo albums before establishing herself as a session musician, recording with the O’Jays, Nile Rodgers, the Marshall Tucker Band, and David Johansen. In the late ’80s, Dash toured and wrote music with Keith Richards, which also led to her singing on the Rolling Stones’ 1989 album Steel Wheels.
In the ’90s, Dash developed a one-woman show called Dash of Diva. After reuniting with Labelle in 1995 for the dance hit ‘Turn It Out’, the group reunited once again to release one more album, Back to Now, in 2008. Dash was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.
“We were just on-stage together on Saturday and it was such a powerful and special moment,” Patti LaBelle wrote on Twitter. “Sarah Dash 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. And I could always count on her to have my back! That’s who Sarah was … loyal friend and a voice for those who didn’t have one.”
— Patti LaBelle (@MsPattiPatti) September 20, 2021