Sarah Dash, one of the co-founding members of the iconic R&B trio Labelle, well known for their "Lady Marmalade" fame, has died. Labelle passed away on Monday, Sept. 20 at the age of 76, Billboard confirmed, with Trenton, New Jersey Mayor Reed Gusciora also confirming her death in a Facebook post reading, "our resident legend and Trenton's very first music ambassador, Sarah Dash, has passed away." At this time, no cause of death has been given, though The Guardian reports that Dash reportedly told family she was feeling unwell in recent days.
Born in Trenton in 1945, Dash created a vocal duo called the Capris before she moved to Philadelphia as a young woman in the '60s. It was there that she teamed up with Nona Hendryx, Patti LaBelle (neé Patricia Holte) and Sundray Tucker as members of a quartet called The Ordettes. The group later changed their name to the Bluebelles and later to Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. The group opened for The Rolling Stones in the 1960s and earned several hit singles, including their 1962 debut single, "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," which shot into the US Top 20. After Birdsong left the group in 1967 to join the Supremes, The Bluebelles renamed themselves, Labelle, gaining mainstream success and hitting their peak with their 1974 album Nightbird. The lead single on the album, "Lady Marmalade," went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles (now Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs). In 2003, the song was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, followed by the National Recording Registry in 2020. The song again reached the top of the charts when it was famously re-recorded by Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Pink and rapper Lil' Kim for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack.
After Labelle split, Dash went on to release several albums, including her debut album in 1978, Ooh La La, Sarah Dash in 1980, Close Enough in 1983 and You're All I Need in 1988. She reunited with LaBelle for "Turn It Out" on the To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar soundtrack in 1995. The trio again reunited in 2008 for the critically acclaimed reunion album Back to Now.
According to group namesake Patti LaBelle, Dash had been on stage as recently as Saturday, Sept. 18. In a post mourning Dash's passing, LaBelle called their final time on stage together "such a powerful and special moment" and remembered Dash as "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... ... a loyal friend and a voice for those who didn't have one. She was a true giver, always serving and sharing her talent and time. I am heartbroken, 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!"