Founding Member of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles Dies; Who Was Sarah Dash?

The music industry is mourning the loss of legendary R&B, funk, and disco singer, Sarah Dash. Dash is a founding member of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. The group is known for its songs of love and feminism. Outside of the group, Dash had her own successful solo career and continued performing until her passing. 

Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles
Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles 1973 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Sarah Dash is a founding member of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles

Dash was a Trenton, New Jersey native who grew up singing in church. She began performing with the group alongside Patti, Cynthia Birdsong, and Nona Hendryx in the 1960s. The girl group reinvented themselves later in the decade and into the 1970s “a socially aware, Afro-futuristic rock and funk powerhouse, costumed in glittery sci-fi outfits and singing about revolution as well as earthy romance,” per The New York Times

The group achieved their most success in 1974, with their No. 1 hit, ‘Lady Marmalade.’ They became the first pop group, and Black group, to perform a concert at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

Source: YouTube

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Hendryx tells The New York Times that Dash is responsible for the group’s impeccable harmony. “Sarah was very meticulous about vocal parts,” she said. “Patti and I would just want to do whatever we wanted to do, and Sarah had really great ears and was really great with harmony. That was her strength. She was the glue.”

Dash sang soprano. The group split in 1977 in search of solo stardom. Dash set her sights on disco music. 

The singer continued performing after the group disbanded

Dash began her solo career with the 1978 hit ‘Sinner Man’ from her self-titled debut solo album. She released three more solo albums over the next decade. The single ‘Oo-La-La, Too Soon’ from her 1980 album Oo-La-La, Sarah Dash was turned into a commercial jingle for Sasson jeans.

Source: YouTube

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Dash is most regarded as a session singer. A session singer is hired to perform in recording sessions or live performances. Dash has performed with Nile Rodgers, the Marshall Tucker Band, the O’Jays, and the Rolling Stones. 

She performed a one-woman show about her life and career in the 1990s and also released an autobiography, A Dash of Diva. Dash reunited with Labelle in 2008 for the album Back to Now, followed by a tour. She remained close friends with her group members until her death.

Patti LaBelle pays tribute to Sarah Dash in a touching Instagram post

Patti is saddened by Dash’s death. The two singers performed together one final time before Dash’s unexpected death during LaBelle’s Sept. 18 concert in Atlantic City. She pulled Dash from the audience to sing for her fans.

​”#SarahDash 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,” she wrote in part. “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…And I pray that her precious memory brings us peace and comfort. Rest in power my dear sister. I love you always!”

She shared a series of photos and videos in memory of Dash.