Before supergroups like Destiny’s Child blew up charts or duo Faka had us (and Donatella Versace) fawning over their unique sound and avant-garde looks, a band named Labelle changed the course of music and fashion forever, all the while inextricably adding to the sexual liberation movement.
READ MORE: Feminism: where did it all begin?
Starting out modestly in the early 1960s as a doowap girl group known as The Blue Belles (after founder, Grammy award-winning Patti LaBelle), the band underwent a major sonic and visual revamp at the start of the 1970s.
Changing its name to Labelle and swapping and dropping out a few members, the group was now made up of Patti, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash.
Their sound became characterised by phenomenal vocals and arrangements and their presence in music disrupted genres and gender and racial stereotypes - changing the very definition of girl group.
Meshing gospel, funk and R&B, Labelle dropped the wigs, harmonies and matching outfits, and “dove into the glam glitter, and funk of the early 70s, helping to create the visual image that marks the period,” according to the book Issues in African American Music: Power, Gender, Race, Representation.
With their afros and jeans, Labelle’s new look surprised audiences, and even more when soon after, they metamorphosed into a badass outfit that upstaged in bold silver space suits, feathers, knee-high boots and African-inspired cowry shell crowns and face paint, singing about love, revolution and sex.
Very comfortably engaging futurist and intergalactic aesthetics with their clothing and even music, like on track Space Children, the trio is perfectly
described on a forum as “gorgeous spaces queens from beyond the galaxy”.
Touring the country opening for rock groups like Rolling Stones and playing with The Who, the luck of Labelle turned in 1974.
Despite the band being critically acclaimed at this point, they were not commercially successful, but this changed when they released their sexually charged classic Lady Marmalade, singing “voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?" ("Do you want to sleep with me, tonight?).
The track became their first chart topper, going to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Labelle landed a cover on the Rolling Stone magazine, making them the first African American vocal group to be featured on the cover.
Making political statements with their natural hair in afros and remaking 1971 classic The Revolution Will Not be Televised by Gil Scott Heron, Labelle were intent on going down in history as “one of the most daring groups of the early-to-mid 1970s”.
Disbanding shortly after in 1976 - following 14 years together - Labelle reunited on a few occasions over the next few years.
From the pictures we can definitely see where other girl groups like Destiny's Child and renowned RnB and soul singer Erykah Badu first adopted their daring and statement-making fashion choices as well as bravado in the music scene back in the 90s.
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