Photo–Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash
After well over a decade of working together, in 1974 LaBelle had a major hit with New Orleans producer Allen Toussaint. Whenever they came to town, the night people turned out en masse, strutting the streets decked out in silver, proudly resplendent.
Twenty years into this new millennium, LaBelle’s music continues to be a forward flag. Patti Labelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash, in combination with their UK-bred manager, Vicky Wickham, established a new paradigm for “girl groups”. These were women. Proud women. Sexually liberated. Making socially challenging music.
The LaBelle trio were an eclectic ensemble. Hendryx was the resident wordsmith and philosopher, Labelle was an electrifying performer, Dash had an angelic voice. They combined their strengths to produce an entrancing and challenging sound.
This is not simply an obituary for Sarah Dash who recently made her transition. While we do honor Dash’s departure from this plane, what this really is, is a celebration of the feminine. Pure and powerful. They battered against the social restrictions back in the seventies, and their music continues to challenge the conservative tide that is still very much with us in 2021.
Some of their music was too radical for radio of the last millenium. Indeed, LaBelle is more forward than much of today’s music. And it’s not a gimmick. Individually and certainly collectively, these women are easily the match of any female ensemble of the first two decades of the 21st century. LaBelle persevered for well over twenty years. Two decades. That’s a long, long time in entertainment-industry years.
Check them out. If you are unfamiliar with LaBelle, these selections will help bring you up to speed. And if you are a long time fan, these selections will bring back fond memories.
As a bonus, here is a clip of Patti Labelle singing the last song LaBelle recorded. . . I should say “performing” the last song the trio recorded. Ms. Labelle famously falls to the floor, rolls across the stage, singing as she rotates. . . just check it out.
Consider LaBelle. You may be surprised. You certainly will be delighted.