Dash’s death was confirmed by Reed Gusciora, mayor of her hometown of Trenton, N.J.
“Today I grieve with the city of Trenton and a worldwide community of fans. Our resident legend and Trenton’s very first music ambassador, Sarah Dash, has passed away,” Gusciora posted to Facebook. “My heart goes out to her family and friends.”
The mayor praised Dash not only for her work in music, but her lasting contributions to the Trenton community. “While she may have passed from this life to the next, her star will never fade from this city and the hearts of its residents.”
Born in 1945, Dash was the seventh of 13 children. Her father was a pastor, exposing the young girl to gospel music at an early age. Years later the budding singer would move to Philadelphia where she’d meet another up-and-coming talent named Patricia Holte.
Dash would join Holte in the quartet the Bluebirds in 1962. However, the group was soon renamed Patti Labelle and the Bluebirds after Holte adopted her now famous stage name. The group scored a handful of hits in the ensuing years, including popular R&B tracks “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman,” “Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song)” and a doo-wop rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It was during this period that the group also found itself opening for the Rolling Stones.
Following some lineup turnover, Patti Labelle and the Bluebirds renamed itself Labelle. Their 1971 self-titled LP featured covers of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and the Rolling Stones “Wild Horses.” Later Labelle releases would include further R&B interpretations of rock tracks, including material penned by the Who and Cat Stevens.
In 1974, the group — now a trio — scored a massive hit with “Lady Marmalade.” The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, earning platinum sales. Decades later, it would be enshrined in the Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically, or artistically significant” piece of art.
Watch Labelle Perform ‘Lady Marmalade’
Labelle split up in 1976, with all of the members embarking on solo careers. Dash’s debut solo LP, 1978’s self-titled release, scored a disco hit with the song “Sinner Man.” She’d continue releasing material into the mid-’80s, but found only minimal mainstream success.
In 1988, Keith Richards recruited Dash to contribute to his solo material. The singer would duet on the song “Make No Mistake,” which featured on Richards’ Talk is Cheap LP. She’d soon join his backing band, the X-Pensive Winos, touring around the world. Dash contributed to the Rolling Stones 1989 album Steel Wheels and later lent her voice to another Richards release, 1992’s Main Offender.
Dash was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003. As news of her death became public, friend and bandmate Patti Labelle took to Instagram to pay her respects.
“We were just on-stage together on Saturday and it was such a powerful and special moment!,” the singer wrote. “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. 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.”
In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths
Remembering the musicians, actors, producers and others who have died in 2021.