Sarah Dash, a founding singer in Labelle, one of the most influential girl groups of all time, died on September 20, Billboard reported. She was 76. Dash, a native of Trenton, New Jersey, began singing with Nona Hendryx in the Del-Capris in the early 1960s. The pair were eventually tapped to join Patti LaBelle (then Patricia Holt) and Sundray Tucker in the Ordettes in Philadelphia. Cindy Birdsong later replaced Tucker, as the group became Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. By 1971, years after Birdsong left to join the Supremes, the trio pivoted from soulful doo-wop music to edgier funk-rock, reemerging as Labelle. Their flashy, futuristic outfits and proto-disco sound — as emblematized on their signature song, 1974’s “Lady Marmalade” — influenced generations of pop and rock music to come and made the group icons to the queer community. After the group’s 1976 split, Dash released four solo albums, along with joining Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in studio and touring with the Rolling Stones in the late 1980s and early ’90s. She reunited with Labelle in 2008 for the album Back to Now and a subsequent tour.
Days before her death, on September 18, Dash joined Patti LaBelle onstage in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to perform the Labelle song “Isn’t It a Shame.” In a statement to Billboard, Patti called the performance “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,” she continued. “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!”