Writer(s): Bob Crewe, Kenny Nolan (see lyrics here)
Released: November 5, 1974
First Charted: December 14, 1974
Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 2 GR, 11 HR, 3 RR, 11 RB, 17 UK, 11 CN, 13 AU, 17 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 15.2 video, 64.58 streaming
Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, & Pink
First Charted: April 6, 2001
Peak: 15 US, 19 RR, 25 A40, 43 RB, 11 UK, 17 CN, 13 AU, 12 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): 0.26 US, 0.97 UK, 5.5 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 389.7 video, 344.05 streaming
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Awards (Aguilera, et al):
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About the Song:
“Lady Marmalade,” written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, was first recorded in 1974 by the Eleventh Hour, a studio group fronted by Kenny. The song was inspired by New Orleans’ prositutes in the red-light district of the French Quarter. SF Producer Allen Toussaint heard the track and wanted LaBelle – comprised of Patti LaBelle, Noan Hendryx, and Sarah Dash – to record it. The Philadelphia trio had been around more than a decade and landed five top-40 hits on the R&B chart, but they hadn’t charted since 1966. Personnel and label changes led them to Epic in 1974 where their recording of “Lady Marmalade” became “an outrageous party anthem” SF and an early favorite of the disco era. That’s not surprising. “It’s pure fatback funk, with a huge bass and piano part playing that ae-inspiring backing lick.” TB
The song ruffled the feathers of some who saw it as glamorizing prostitution. SF LaBelle ooffered “coy invitations of ‘Voluez-vous coucer avec moi ce soir?’ in what sounded like some sort of sexual voodoo chant in the immortal verse ‘Itchi gitchi yay a da da da / Itchi gitchi ya ya here / Mocha-chocal-lata ya ya / Creole Lady Marmalade!” TB
The song reached the top in 1975, knocking Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You” from the pinnacle. It marked only the third time in history that a songwriting team succeeded themselves at #1. FB LaBelle didn’t make it back to the top-40 on the pop chart, but as a solo artist Patti LaBelle resurfaced in the mid-‘80s with the top-20 hit “New Attitude” and the #1 duet with Michael McDonald, “On My Own.”
Meanwhile, the song experienced several revivals. In 1987, Italian pop star Sabrina recorded the song and had some minor success in Belgium and France. In 1998, the girl group All Saints took their version to #1 in the UK. Three years later, Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and Pink recorded “their naughtier version” AMG with the song’s setting changed from New Orleans to the Paris nightclub Moulin Rouge. WK
The song was used in director Baz Luhrmann’s modern-day musical Moulin Rouge! about a brothel in Paris at the turn of the century. A number of big name artists were tapped to do cover songs for the soundtrack, but the version of “Lady Marmalade” had the most superpower behind it. When it topped the charts in June 2001, it marked the ninth time in chart history for two versions of a song to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. FB It became the only song to top the UK and U.S. charts twice. SF It also gave Crewe and Nolan the distinction of the longest span of #1 hits, dating back more than 38 years to “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by the Four Seasons. FB
First posted 2/2/2021; last updated 3/31/2023.