Mayor Reed Gusciora of Trenton, N.J. (Dash’s hometown) revealed the tragic news via a statement on NJ.com. He wrote, “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 […] 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.”
Patti LaBelle took to Instagram expressing how she and Dash had just performed together over the weekend. “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,” the singer wrote. “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. I am heart broken, as I know all of her loved ones and fans are. But, I know that Sarah’s spirit and all that she has given to the world live on! And I pray that her precious memory brings us peace and comfort. Rest in power my dear sister. I love you always!”
Dash was born on Aug. 18, 1945, in Trenton, N.J. She formed vocal duo, The Capris, before relocating to Philadelphia in the ’60s. It was there she connected with Nona Hendryx, Patti LaBelle, and Sundray Tucker to form The Ordettes. Tucker was replaced by Cindy Birdsong and in 1962, the Bluebelles were formed. The group became known for their R&B ballads and their rendition of “Over The Rainbow.”
In 1967, Birdsong left to join The Supremes and the Bluebelles became Labelle. The pioneering quartet became known for their rock hit, “I Sold My Heart To The Junkman” and the pop track, “Lady Marmalade.” They were also the first Black female group to play the Metropolitan Opera House and the first Black group to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Hendryx also shared a touching tribute on social media to her late friend, whom she lovingly called Nightbird. She wrote, “Sarah, Nightbird, I rarely used your last name, seems out of place. Words are inadequate so I will use few. We spoke a musical language, music says it best. Singing brought us together, You, Me and then You, Me, Cindy and Pat; Bluebelles. You and Pat were singing so joyfully the other night, we talked & texted on Saturday, now you’re gone, I can’t believe it. Nightbird, why not let heaven be your home.”
Dash had a brief solo career where she released three albums including disco hit, “Sinner Man” and dance hit, “Lucky Tonight.” In the ’80s, she toured with The Rolling Stones, specifically alongside Keith Richards, and even created a one-woman show, “Dash of Diva,” where she performed at various nightclubs doing a more jazz-centered set. In 1995, she reconnected with LaBelle for “Turn It Out,” a No. 1 dance smash from the soundtrack for To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.
Labelle reunited in 2008 for their critically acclaimed album, Back to Now. In 2012, Dash returned to her roots and began working on a gospel album. One single was released entitled, “Hold On (He’ll Be Right There).” The National R&B Music Society honored Dash with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
Revisit Dash’s amazing vocal talents in “Lady Marmalade” in the video below: