Sara Dash, a co-founder of the legendary R&B/funk trio Labelle, passed away on Monday at 76. No cause of death has been given.
“We were just onstage together on Saturday and it was such a powerful and special moment,” Patti Labelle said in a statement to Billboard. “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. 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 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!”
Nona Hendryx also shared on Instagram about the passing of her former bandmate:
“Words are inadequate so I will use few. We spoke a musical language, music says it best. Singing brought us together…”
She added that the two had just talked and texted on Saturday. “Now you’re gone, I can’t believe it,” Hendryx said.
Dash was born Aug. 18, 1945, in Trenton, N.J., where she created a vocal duo called the Capris before relocating to Philadelphia in the 60s. In Philadelphia, she would team up with Patti Labelle (neé Patricia Holte), Nona Hendryx, and Sundray Tucker as a quartet called The Ordettes. Later, when Cindy Birdsong—who would later replace Florence Ballard in The Supremes—joined the powerhouse vocal group, they changed their name to The Bluebelles in 1962. Eventually, they became known as Patti LaBelle and The Bluebells.
The group gained a cult following during the 60s and early 70s (Luther Vandross was the president of the group’s fan club). But, it wasn’t until they changed their name to Labelle and their look to a glam-rock Afro-futuristic style that were able to launch into superstardom. Their signature song, “Lady Marmalade,” was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1974.
When Labelle disbanded in 1976, Dash launched her solo career and recorded four albums over the next decade. As an acclaimed session singer, she recorded with the O’Jays, Nile Rodgers, the Marshall Tucker Band, David Johansen, and many more. She wrote music with Keith Richards and toured with the Rolling Stones.
When Labelle reunited in 1995 for “Turn It Out” from the To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar soundtrack, it hit No. 1 on the dance charts.
She recorded one final album with Labelle: Back to Now in 2008.
Her dear friend Patti Labelle noted that the beautiful spirit of Sara Dash will continue to live one. “I am heartbroken, as I know all of her loved ones and fans are,” she said. “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!”