When one thinks of girl groups the names The Supremes, TLC and Destiny’s Child immediately come to mind. But one of the most unsung and yet highly influential groups of all-time is, Labelle. Composed of Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash the trio are best known for their classic “Lady Marmalade.” Beyond that song they revolutionized the look and sound of the girl group. Lyrically and musically they broke new ground by merging rock, pop and soul with lyrics that addressed social issues. When it came to style they shunned gowns in favor of spacesuits and flamboyant costumes that contemporary pop stars including Lady Gaga continue to emulate. In terms of performance they created a stage show that has been upheld as a work of art.
As one-third of the group, Dash made an indelible mark with her operatic vocals, penchant for midriff baring get-ups and sensual stage performance. These days the 50-year entertainment industry veteran chairs events for the organization, Top Ladies of Distinction, tours her cabaret act, Sarah Dash: One Woman, and promotes her recent album The Seventh Child.
In celebration of African-American Music Appreciation Month, Dash spoke with JETmag.com to reflect on the group’s history making achievements as well as her own solo success.
On becoming the first black pop act to play at the Metropolitan Opera House:
We were doing something no one ever attempted to do in a venue like that. We are in the archives and made history in the music industry. It was new to us. Now it means we have taken a piece of our talent and made it in a place only known for opera. We helped the place become more of a music house and we took that same show to other opera houses around the world.
On being the first black vocal group on the cover of Rolling Stone:
We broke another barrier since a black group was never on the cover. We were bridging gaps and exposing ourselves and others to non-traditional female groups. With that cover we had three women who sang together and were individual people and could dress in our own personal style. We were breaking tradition in terms of what they had on their cover.
Most female groups all wore the same shoes, wigs, gowns and moved the same way. We had our own feelings on stage and brought more drama. We revolutionized the music industry. People followed suit and they started wearing space clothes. They watched us in the industry like hawks and they never give us credit for it.
On “Sinner Man,” her first international solo hit and disco classic:
I didn’t think I’d have a hit with it. I thought I’d sing classical and jazz. It came toward the end of the disco era and people still remember the song.
On recording and performing with Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos:
This was a wonderful experience. I got to sing rock and be the only female on stage. It opened me up to another type of music and audience. When I met Keith the first time he said, “Yours is the voice I want.” I couldn’t believe that he wrote in his autobiography that my version of “Time is on My Side,” is the best version of all time.