R&B singer Sarah Dash, best known for being the co-founder of the ground-breaking R&B group Labelle, has died at the age of 76. The news was announced by fellow Labelle member Patti LaBelle, and confirmed by her cousin and business manager John Dash III.
According to Dash III, she was found deceased in her home in Trenton, New Jersey. No cause of death has been determined, pending an autopsy.
Sharing the news on social media, LaBelle called Dash a “beautiful and loving soul” who will always be remembered:
“We were 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,” LaBelle continued. “Always serving, always sharing her talent and her 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 beautiful sister. I love you always!”
Sarah Dash was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey. She got her start singing in church, and soon transitioned to pop music with her high school classmate, Nona Hendryx. When she relocated to Philadelphia, the two joined up with Patti LaBelle and Cindy Birdsong to create Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles.
The group had two Top 40 singles – “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Down the Aisle” – and opened up for The Rolling Stones during their 1965 US tour.
After Birdsong left to join The Supremes in 1971, Hendryx, Dash and LaBelle formed Labelle. Known for their space-age and glam costumes, the trio are widely considered pioneers for their blend of R&B, rock, and funk music. Their single “Lady Marmalade” reached number one in 1975, and they became the first Black female pop group to headline the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
“Lady Marmalade” was covered by P!nk, Lil’ Kim, Christina Aguilera, and Maya in 2001 as part of the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. It became an instant hit, reaching the top spot on the US and the United Kingdom music charts.
After the group broke up in the mid-1970s, each member embarked on their own solo career. Dash signed to Don Kirshner’s label, and starting in 1979 released numerous solo albums. She did session work with Nile Rodgers and the O’Jays, and contributed to Rolling Stone Keith Richards‘ solo work, touring with him in the 1980s.
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Dash was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National R&B Music Society.