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Remembering Sarah Dash: Legendary Vocalist, Songwriter, And Co-Founder Of The Iconic Group, LaBelle

Remembering Sarah Dash: Legendary Vocalist, Songwriter, And Co-Founder Of The Iconic Group, LaBelle

Heaven has a new angel!

According to The Root, legendary singer Sarah Dash, a pioneer in Rhythm & Blues, passed away at 76. 

Dash was a singer’s singer. She was a gifted songwriter and co-founder of the iconic group LaBelle. Born in 1945, the seventh of 13 children in Trenton, N.J. Her mother was a nurse and her father, a pastor at the Trenton Church of Christ. She grew up singing in the church, eventually forming a group as a teen, The Del Capris. During the 1960s, she moved to Philadelphia. She met another Trenton native, Nona Hendryx, and Philly natives Patricia Louise Holte and singer Sundray Tucker. The four came together to form The Ordettes. 

By 1962, Tucker was replaced by Cindy Birdsong, who’d later join The Supremes. Holte rebranded herself as Patti LaBelle, and the group later changed to Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, Holte acting as lead singer. They went on to reach international fame, with Top 20 hits like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Over the Rainbow.” Birdsong left the group in 1967 to replace Florence Ballard of The Supremes, and the remaining trio, LaBelle, Dash, and Hendryx, became known as LaBelle. The group was known for their innovation, pairing their smooth R&B harmonies with an Afro-futuristic image and funk sound, which set them apart from other girl groups at the time. 

“We were the first female group to stop wearing the identical dresses. What Beyoncé and all the others don’t know is that we opened the door for them to have their own looks. We took the Supremes’ look off,” Dash previously told reporters. 

Photo Courtesy of Michael Putland/Getty Images

Between 1971 and 1973, the group released three albums, their biggest commercial success coming with their 1974 album, Nightbirds. It featured the smash hit “Lady Marmalade,” produced by Allen Toussaint; the single and all of its remakes have hit number one on the charts. 

“It’s a total surprise to have ‘Lady Marmalade’ take care of us all these years. It definitely opened the door to long-term business for us,” Dash said in 2007. 

LaBelle continued to make history, becoming the first Black pop group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City and the first Black vocal group to cover Rolling Stone for their July 3, 1975 issue.

Photo Courtesy of Rolling Stone

In 1977, the group split over creative differences, each woman going solo while remaining close. Dash found success with her 1978 disco hit “Sinner Man” and began working as a songwriter, penning the theme song for the 1980s PBS show "Watch Your Mouth," where she also guest-starred. Dash’s 1980’s hit “Ooh La La, Too Soon” got reimagined as “Ooh La La Sassoon” for the famous 80’s denim brand, and she continued to find success with each of her albums. Her last was in 1988; the "You’re All I Need" album featured a duet with Patti LaBelle on the title track. 

Photo Courtesy of Brad Barket/Getty Images

The women continued to collaborate, and Dash kept lending her one-of-a-kind vocals to the icons of our generation, including The O’Jays, Nile Rodgers, and The Rolling Stones. In the early 1990s, she produced a one-woman show, "Dash of Diva," about her life and released an autobiography of the same name. Just this past Saturday, Dash and LaBelle reunited for the last time. LaBelle unexpectedly pulled Dash on stage during a tour stop and giving her the flowers she so richly deserved. 

“We were just on-stage together on Saturday, and it was such a powerful and special moment! [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...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,” LaBelle captioned a video of the two’s performance.

Hendryx also shared a message of love to her friend and group mate, saying, “Sarah, Nightbird, I rarely used your last name, seems out of place. Words are inadequate, so I will use few. We spoke a musical language, music says it best. Singing brought us together, You, Me and then You, Me, Cindy and Pat; Bluebelles. You and Pat were singing so joyfully the other night, we talked & texted on Saturday, no you’re gone, I can’t believe it. Nightbird, why not let heaven be your home.”

Other condolences continued to pour in, including one from Trenton, NJ Mayor, Reed Guscoria via 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,” Mayor Guscoria said. 

Rest in peace and power, Ms. Sarah Dash! Because of you, we can!

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images