“Lady Marmalade” is a song written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan. It became a popular hit in 1975, recorded by the American girl group Labelle. The song is famous for its sexually suggestive chorus of “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?”, which translates into English as “Do you want to sleep with me (tonight)?” Labelle held the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week, and topped the Canadian RPM national singles chart.
The song has had many cover versions over the years. In 1998, girl group All Saints released a cover of the song that peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart. The 2001 version by singers Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa, and Pink, recorded for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. for 5 weeks.
Background and release
Labelle’s version of “Lady Marmalade“ was produced by Allen Toussaint and Vicki Wickham. It was released on August 3, 1974 as the first single from the album Nightbirds. The song was inspired by Bob Crewe’s first-hand observations of New Orleans. After it was first recorded by Kenny Nolan’s group Eleventh Hour in 1974, on Eleventh Hour’s Greatest Hits LP, Labelle’s producer Allen Toussaint decided to record it for Nightbirds. Patti LaBelle sang lead vocals on “Lady Marmalade” with backing vocals being contributed by band mates Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. The song’s chorus, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?”, appeared previously in the play A Streetcar Named Desire, uttered by the promiscuous Blanche DuBois. Lyrically, “Lady Marmalade” is about a prostitute. Patti LaBelle, the lead female vocal of the band, expressed that, “I didn’t know what it was about. Nobody, I swear this is God’s truth, nobody told me what I’d just sung a song about.”