Sarah Dash, one-third of the powerful '70s soul/R&B trio Labelle, died Monday (Sept. 20). She was 76 years old.
"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," bandmate Patti LaBelle posted on Twitter. (Dash made a surprise appearance at a New Jersey concert of LaBelle's on Saturday, Sept. 18.)
"Words are inadequate so I will use few," bandmate Nona Hendryx wrote in tribute on Instagram. "We spoke a musical language, music says it best. Singing brought us together, You, Me and then You, Me, Cindy and Pat; Bluebelles."
Born in Trenton, NJ in 1945, Dash met Patricia Holte, Hendryx and Cindy Birdsong as a teenager in Philadelphia. As The Blue Belles, they scored a Top 20 hit in 1962 with "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman"; almost immediately thereafter, Holt changed her name to Patti LaBelle and would be the group's de facto frontwoman. After Birdsong left in 1967 to join The Supremes, the group continued as a trio, changing their name to Labelle in 1970.
READ MORE: LABELLE: Classic Soul 1974 Interview
After supporting the likes of The Who and Laura Nyro, Labelle eventually debuted bold new looks (including spacesuits and feathers) in the mid-'70s, and recorded the album Nightbirds with producer Allen Toussaint in 1974. A potent mix of R&B, funk and dance music, the album's lead single "Lady Marmalade" - a catchy song about sex workers in New Orleans - became a No. 1 hit in 1975 (and again in 2001, when covered by Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mya and P!nk for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack).
Labelle broke up in 1976; Dash's solo highlights included the 1978 Top 10 disco single "Sinner Man" and a musical partnership with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, whom she befriended when The Blue Belles opened for the British rockers in the '60s. Dash sang on several of Richards' solo albums and tours as well as The Rolling Stones' comeback album Steel Wheels in 1989.
Dash spent the remainder of her career doing charity work in her native Trenton and New York City, returning to her original musical love of gospel and triumphantly reuniting with Labelle for the Top 10 R&B album Back to Now in 2008.