Labelle is back!! Thirty-two years after they broke up as a trio, Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash have recorded another album, Back to Now, and plan on touring. I haven’t heard any of the songs yet–have you? What do you think?
Any Laura Nyro fan worth her/his salt knows the role Labelle played in Laura’s oeuvre: They added those wild, wailing background vocals to Gonna Take A Miracle, lending real-deal Philly soul to Laura’s homage to her own teen spirit. The album still remains a favorite; in fact, Out magazine recently judged it #39 on its list of the 100 Gayest Albums of all time, just one ranking below the beloved Dusty in Memphis.
Everyone knows where Patti LaBelle went after the group busted up–top of the charts–but Nona also put out some stellar solo albums (can’t say I ever heard from Sarah in all these years). I’ve always loved Nona’s voice, and saw her perform a few times (she’s in amazing shape).
OK, here are more more roundabout connections between Labelle and Laura and Vicki Wickham (Nona’s longtime partner, and the woman who introduced Laura and Patti) and Dusty, plus my old friend Norma Tanega. Labelle’s first big hit, of course, was “Lady Marmalade,” which was written by Bob Crewe. Bob produced Norma’s one-hit wonder, “Walking My Cat Named Dog,” which was arranged by Herb Bernstein. Herb arranged Laura’s first album, More Than A New Discovery. Norma went to England to promote “Dog,” met Dusty, and ended up moving in with her. Dusty was managed, on and off, by Vicki. Vicki also managed Labelle…. and around it goes.