Labelle’s publicist confirmed Dash’s death to Variety. Trenton, N.J. Mayor Reed Guscoria also shared the news on his Facebook page, writing: “Our resident legend and Trenton’s very first music ambassador, Sarah Dash, has passed away… Our motto, ‘Trenton Makes, the World Takes’ was alive and well with Sarah. What Sarah made was beautiful music refined by a lifetime of experience and numerous contributions to the arts and the community. What the world takes is a timeless inspiration of a woman who touched the highest peaks of stardom and never forgot where she came from.”
Beyond Labelle, Dash lent her smooth vocals to the recordings and live shows of some of the biggest artists in music, including the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder, Laura Nyro, Alice Cooper, the O’Jays, Wilson Pickett, Bo Diddley and more. She also had a lucrative solo career, seeing success with songs like 1978’s “Sinner Man” and 1983’s “Low Down Dirty Rhythm.”
Born in Trenton, Dash got her start singing gospel music as the daughter of a pastor. After moving to Philadelphia in the ’60s, Dash met Patti LaBelle, Cindy Birdsong and Nona Hendryx, and the quartet soon formed the Bluebelles, which would later become Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. In 1967, Birdsong departed the group to join the Supremes and the trio changed their name to Labelle. After signing to Warner Bros. Records, Labelle released its self-titled debut album in 1971, followed by “Moon Shadow” in 1972. Labelle’s mainstream success came with a trio of albums released in the mid-’70s: “Nightbirds,” “Phoenix” and “Chameleon.” “Lady Marmalade,” a single from “Nightbirds,” proved to be the group’s most successful song, topping the Billboard Hot 100 and earning international acclaim.
After Labelle disbanded in 1977, Dash embarked on a solo career. Her eponymous debut album released in 1978, led by the disco hit “Sinner Man.” Dash would go on to release three more solo albums: “Ooh La La, Sarah Dash” in 1980, “Close Enough” in 1983 and “You’re All I Need” in 1988. In the late ’80s, Dash toured with Keith Richards and sang on the Rolling Stones’ 1989 album “Steel Wheels.”
Dash then moved to producing one-woman shows like “Dash of Diva” and “Sarah: One Woman” in the ’90s, and eventually reunited with Labelle in in 1995 for dance hit “Turn It Out.” In 2008, Labelle reunited once again to release one more album, “Back to Now,” which was produced by Lenny Kravitz and Wyclef Jean, among others. Dash was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003 and served as Trenton’s Music Ambassador, where she advocated for the expansion of performing arts in the city.
In a heartfelt Instagram post, LaBelle paid tribute to Dash: “We were just on-stage together on Saturday and it was such a powerful and special moment! #SarahDash 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.”