Sarah Dash, singer with LaBelle and Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, dies suddenly


Sarah Dash, the Trenton-born R&B and pop singer who sang with Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles in the 1960s and rose to fame when the group morphed into the groundbreaking and futuristic funk trio LaBelle and composed the international hit ” Lady Marmalade “in 1974, died on Monday. She was 76 years old.

Ms Dash’s death was announced in a statement from Trenton Mayor Reid Gusciora. He wrote: “Our resident music legend and Trenton’s very first music ambassador, Sarah Dash, has passed away.” No cause of death was given.

Gusciora cited Ms Dash’s work this year on a campaign to urge Trentonians to get vaccinated. “His star will never fade from this city and the hearts of its inhabitants,” he wrote.

Last weekend, Ms. Dash appeared with Patti LaBelle at the Philadelphia singer’s concert at Caesars Atlantic City, joining her for a duet on “Isn’t It A Shame” by Chameleon, LaBelle’s 1976 album, the band she co-founded.

LaBelle posted a video of the two performing together and wrote on Twitter, “We were just on stage together and it was such a powerful and special moment! Sarah Dash was an incredibly talented beautiful and alive soul who blessed my life and so many others in more ways than I can tell. And I could always count on her to support me. This is who Sarah was … a staunch friend and a voice for those who didn’t have one.

Nona Hendryx, the third member of LaBelle, who also grew up in Trenton, wrote on Instagram: “Sarah, Nightbird, I rarely used your last name, that seems out of place. Words are insufficient so I will use little. We spoke a musical language, music says it best. You, me, then you, me, Cindy and Pat; The blueberries. You and Pat were singing so happily the other night, we chatted and texted on Saturday, now you’re gone I can’t believe it. Nightbird, why not let Heaven be your home.

Sarah Dash grew up the seventh of thirteen children and sang in the choir of Trinity Pentecostal Church in Trenton, where her father was the pastor. She met her first future bandmate when her choir sang at the nearby Hendryx Church.

Soon the two formed their own group, the Del Capris, and in the early 1960s they merged with two members of the Ordettes – the singer then known as Patricia Holt and Cindy Birdsong – to form Patti & the Bluebelles. .

The Bluebelles scored their first hit with “Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song)” in 1963, and also scored the following year with “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Danny Boy”, the following year recorded for Philadelphia’s Cameo-Drive Records.

“We wore matching dresses and tiaras,” LaBelle recalls in 2008. “We were real prom queens.”

The group encountered racism on the “Chitlin ‘Circuit” tours of the segregated South and opened for the Rolling Stones on an American tour in 1965. This association will last for decades for Mrs. Dash, who sang with Keith Richards on her songs. solo albums. Talking is not expensive in 1988 and Principal offender in 1992 and toured as a member of his X-pensive band Winos. She also sang on the 1989 Stones album Steel wheels.

While touring England in the mid-1960s, Patti & the Bluebelles were supported by a band called Bluesology with a pianist who would later change his name to Elton John. “It was the chubby little boy named Reg Dwight who played the piano on our first tour of England,” Ms. Dash recalled in an interview in 2008. “We used to take his money from the games of cards “

In England, the group met Vicki Wickham, who became their manager and urged the group to transform – after Birdsong left to join the Supremes – as just Labelle.

The abandonment of the innocence of the girl groups of the 1960s began with the most earthly The beautiful in 1971. Ms. Dash – who was briefly married to Philadelphia saxophonist Sam Reed in the late 1960s – and her band mates wore jeans and hung from gymnastic rings on the album cover.

They sang songs by Carole King and Laura Nyro, as well as songs written by the band, including “Baby’s Out Of Sight” by Ms. Dash. “We’ve all been encouraged to sing,” Ms. Dash recalled in a 2008 interview with the Inquirer, speaking about the group’s transformation. “Not just a little oh and ah, but to really use our voices.

“It was like we had stepped into a cocoon,” said Hendryx, also in 2008. “And became something else.”

The same year, Labelle recorded Nyro Go do a miracle, working as backing vocalists on an R&B cover album recorded at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios. A Carnegie Hall gig with Nyro brought the group great visibility, and the trio made their mark on their subsequent albums in the early 1970s, culminating with Night birds in 1974.

At that point, Labelle was really something else. The singers wore glittery silver space suits and feathered headdresses on stage, and mixed soul, funk and rock in their songs, in tune with out of the ordinary afro-futurists like George Clinton with Parliament-Funkadelic and the Sun Ra Arkestra as well. only glam rockers like David Bowie.

Recorded in New Orleans with pianist producer Allen Toussaint and accompanying members of the Meters, Night birds became a worldwide sensation thanks to “Lady Marmalade”, the story of a sex worker from the French Quarter to whom Mrs. Dash and her groupmates also gave the voice, in French: “Do you want to sleep with me, this evening ? “

LaBelle’s expression of sexual freedom and undeniable showmanship made them superstars: they were the first black pop group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and the first black pop group to appear on the cover of Rolling stone magazine.

Citing the group’s “spatio-temporal map of sonic starlight”, Adele Bertei writes in Why Labelle is important, published by University of Texas Press this year, that “Labelle the first group to break away from the traditional matrix of 1960s girl groups… It was a banquet of black women that the rebellion audience was waiting for. treat ”.

LaBelle separated a few years later Night birds. The breakup was necessary, Ms Dash said in 2008. “We had to stop ourselves from being a caricature.”

LaBelle had a profound influence on empowered and rule-breaking women who followed from Madonna to Beyonce, and “Lady Marmalade” has been covered dozens of times, including by Christina Aguilera, Mya, Pink and Lil ‘Kim. , for the 2001 film red Mill.

Ms. Dash’s singular soprano was featured on an eponymous solo album in 1978, which featured the hit “Sinner Man”. She released three more albums in the 1980s, and her single “Ooh La La, Too Soon” was used in an advertisement for Sassoon jeans.

She first reunited with Hendryx and LaBelle for “Turn It Out” for the 1995 film. To Wong Foo, thank you for everything! Julie newmar. In 2006, the trio regrouped again for “Dear Rosa”, a tribute to Rosa Parks.

»READ MORE: Back to the beautiful

They reunited again in 2008 for an album titled Back to now, which included a production by Lenny Kravitz, Wyclef Jean and Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and a full-fledged tour.

Ms. Dash received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National R&B Music Society in 2016 and LaBelle was inducted into the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame by the Philadelphia Music Alliance with a plaque placed on the sidewalk of Broad Street in 2017.

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