All Photos: Alan Mercer Lighting: Eric V.
A founding member of the popular 1960’s female soul group Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles, Sarah Dash continued to pursue a variety of outlets for her creative talents. In addition to recording four impressive solo albums, Sarah has sung on albums by the Marshall Tucker Band, Laura Nyro, and the Rolling Stones. In addition to recording with Keith Richards' X-Pensive Winos, she twice toured the United States with the all-star band.
The seventh of 13 children, Sarah was born in Trenton, NJ. Her father was Church of Christ father of the state of New Jersey and a bishop, while her mother was a nurse. Although she initially sang gospel music, Sarah turned to secular music as a pre-teen, when she formed a vocal duo, the Del Capris, with schoolmate Nona Hendryx. The two women were soon joined by Cindy Birdsong and Patricia "Patti LaBelle" Holte. Originally named the Blue Bells, the quartet changed their name to Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles after discovering that the name the Blue Bells was already taken by another group.
Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles were a success from the onset. Their debut single, "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," was a hit, and the group was chosen to open shows during the Rolling Stones' first American tour. Although many believed that they were in danger of breaking up after Birdsong left to join the 'Supremes,' the three remaining members moved to England for a year and dramatically changed their image and musical approach. Returning to the United States as LaBelle, the three vocalists began performing in space-age costumes and featuring cutting-edge, sexually oriented, and politically charged tunes. Sarah's four-and-a-half-octave voice and her pension for silver bras, space-age skirts, and flowing feathers continued to draw attention. The revised edition of the group even surpassed the success of the original, with the Number One Pop hit single ‘Lady Marmalade.’
Signed as a soloist by the Kirschner record label, Sarah Dash released her self-titled debut solo album, which featured the hit disco single, ‘Sinner Man,’ in 1978. Although she continued to record as a soloist, Sarah increasingly worked as a session vocalist. She appeared on the Marshall Tucker Band's 1981 album, ‘Tuckerized,’ and began a long involvement with Keith Richards when she appeared on his 1988 album, ‘Talk Is Cheap,’ singing two duets, ‘Make No Mistake’ and ‘Rock Awhile.’ She continued to work with Richards and his band, the X-Pensive Winos, singing on Richards' 1991 album ‘Live at the Hollywood Palladium’ and his 1992 album ‘Main Offender,’ for which she co-wrote the single ‘Body Works.’ Sarah also appeared on the Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels.’
In 1983, Sarah released two dance singles for Megatone Records in San Francisco, both produced by Patrick Cowley. The first was ‘Low Down Dirty Rhythm’ and the second single ‘Lucky Tonight’ featuring background vocals by Sylvester, was very successful, even rising to the #5 spot on Billboard's Dance Chart, and was even a Billboard "Pick of the Week." Sarah was excited about her career again and went on an extensive tour of major U.S. dance clubs. In 2008, the long-awaited new album from Labelle, ‘Back to Now,’ was released to rave reviews. Sarah sings Lead vocals in the group's political song, 'System.'
Sarah released a ballad called ‘I'm Still Here’ in late 2011, and a dance music single ‘Hold On (He'll Be Right There),’ in May 2012. Sarah was honored by her hometown of Trenton, New Jersey, by being the grand marshal in the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Much of Sarah Dash's focus since the early '90's has been on helping to raise money for homeless single women with children in New York.
AM: Do you ever get tired of being interviewed Sarah?
SD: No, I can talk forever. I’ve done three hour interviews.
AM: You have such a great story being part of an iconic, legendary musical group.
SD: If we ever stop to think about how blessed we are…to have three career changes and people still know who you are. We were Patti Labelle and the Blue Belles, where we recorded classic songs like ‘Danny Boy’’ and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ Then we moved on to LaBelle and had that monstrous hit.
AM: That cemented you.
SD: ‘Lady Marmalade’ did cement us. That one song took care of us for many years. Then we all have enjoyed solo careers over the years. Patti has had the most success because she was the most prepared after the break up. Nona and myself still got to record many songs. I had the international hit ‘Sinner Man’ and had international fame before either Patti or Nona. Patti was big in the States. Of course touring with Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos and singing on the Rolling Stones ‘Steel Wheels’ gig didn’t hurt at all. I’m not trying to brag. These are my stats.
AM: They are your accomplishments. I bet you’ve been around the world a time or two.
SD: Oh yes I’ve been to Japan, Australia, Spain, South America, the whole world. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be. Then being able to record jingles was great. Revlon fed me for a long time. I just feel the blessings of this life tremendously.
AM: You’re one of the few lucky ones and deservedly so.
SD: It’s called being blessed. Luck runs out. (laughter)
AM: Sarah your albums are timeless. I love to listen to your music.
SD: Thank you, I think my first solo project solidified that. ‘Sinner Man’ is still played in clubs. (Album producer) Don Kirschner knew what he was doing.
AM: The ‘Close Enough’ album is really good too!
SD: That is my brother’s favorite of my albums too.
AM: I’m also loving your newer song ‘I’m Still Here.’
SD: Thank you, I wrote that one. I open my show with that song now.
AM: Is your show a collection of your songs?
SD: The ‘Sarah Dash: One Woman’ show is not all the songs I’ve recorded. It’s more a piece about life and my musical journey on a personal level. I also do my special arrangement of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You.’ I talk about going to Paris. I went straight to Louis Vitton and bought a hunting bag! (Laughing) I thought it was a make-up bag and had room for hairspray but that was where the gun was supposed to go! My agent told me I couldn’t keep it and I had to take it back.
AM: You are enjoying social media aren’t you? You are really good about posting on Facebook.
SD: I’m good with all media. Way back in the day before you could fax, you could send a telex. My father got all his kids one so we could all keep in touch. After that I was one of the first people into computers.
AM: Are you from a large family?
SD: Thirteen children. I’m number seven. I’m the middle child.
AM: Did you get forgotten?
SD: No, my presence was very much known. (laughing) There were a lot of different personalities in the family, much like the world, but we all support each other. We are happy to be around each other but we know who we are. There are no surprises as to what is going on. We’re very respectful of each other. We can fight amongst ourselves but you can’t come in and fight with us.
AM: Was that your parents who instilled this in all of you?
SD: Of course, it all comes from parenting. I would say my mother and father did a very good job raising us. My father was a pastor and my mother was a nurse. After she had her thirteenth child she decided she wanted to be a nurse.
AM: You come from a family of over-achievers.
SD: Yes, we are lawyers, doctors….
AM: World class stars! (Laughing)
SD: We’re like any other family. We’re just aware of who we are and we are respectful. You tend to move the way your family moves. Some will go against the grain and all you can do is pray for them.
AM: You certainly can’t change a family member!
SD: You cannot try to change someone in your family as they are not going to be changeable until they’ve made up their mind to be changed. The prayer is to know the difference. I thank God. Some people are offended by that word, but we all have a higher power that we go to and we can name it and call it what we want. That has been my sustaining power through the years.
AM: I knew you had strong faith. It’s never left you has it?
SD: I always say, “I thank God for sustaining provision.” All you have to do is sit still and believe it to see it. Sometimes it’s not the proportion you want but you’re never without. At the times you are without you have to have faith it will only be for a short time and not all time.
To learn more about Sarah Dash visit her web site http://www.sarahdash.net/