Singer Sarah Dash, N.J. native who gained fame with Patti LaBelle, has died, officials say

Sarah Dash, the Trenton-born singer who gained national fame singing in vocal groups with Patti LaBelle starting in the 1960s, died Monday at the age of 76, multiple reports and officials say.

© Michael Mancuso/NJ Advance Media for Acclaimed Trenton-born singer Sarah Dash, right, during her COVID-19 vaccination in February 2021. At left is City of Trenton Public Health Officer Yvette Graffie-Cooper.

Dash’s passing was first reported by Soul Tracks and WDAS radio in Philadelphia, and she was swiftly mourned on social media for her pioneering singing in the 1960s and 1970s and beyond.

The group Labelle, of which Dash was a founder, topped the charts in 1974 with the disco smash “Lady Marmalade.” It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003. At the time, Labelle was a trio, along with Nona Hendryx and LaBelle.

Dash, in the 1960s, was in all the iterations of the groups that would become Labelle, growing out of the Philadelphia soul and R&B scene. It started with the “The Ordettes,” in 1961, The Bluebelles in 1962 and later Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. They became just Labelle in the 1971 and recorded and toured for much of the 1970s before the members moved on to other paths.

Dash never stopped singing and performing, becoming a solo artist, noted session singer, and toured and recorded with the Rolling Stones and Keith Richards’ solo efforts, and reunited with Labelle in the 2000s.

Dash also returned to the Trenton area frequently to sing and lecture about music and her career, as well as attend community events – some in her honor.

In February, when the city opened a COVID-19 vaccine center, Dash arrived in a sequined mask and invited the media to draw attention to the effort.

In July, she was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, a ceremony scheduled for next month.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora mourned Dash online as the city losing a “star.” He posted several clips of Dash, including one of him singing and dancing “Lady Marmalade” with her recently.

“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. My heart goes out to her family and friends,” he said in a statement released later.

“I’m looking forward to embracing my fellow Trentonians as we privately and collectively celebrate her music and humanitarian works. 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.”

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes also issued a statement.

“The legendary Sarah Dash was celebrated for her enormous musical talent not only in Mercer County but on the world’s stage throughout her 50-plus year career in the entertainment industry,” he said.

“She was beloved in Trenton because she never hesitated to use her talents to improve the lives of Trenton residents, whether it was by promoting the arts in the local community, or more recently, stepping up as a role model during the coronavirus pandemic and using her voice to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. She was an inspiration to so many and she will be missed.”

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