Lady Marmalade

Album: Nightbirds (1974)
Charted: 17 1
Play Video


  • The chorus of "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" is French for "Do you want to sleep with me tonight?" When Labelle performed the song on television, broadcast standards of the day prohibited them from singing the chorus as written, so they changed it to "Voulez-vous danser avec moi ce soir?" which means "Do you want to dance with me?" >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ekristheh - Halath
  • This song is about New Orleans prostitutes. The French Quarter is near the city's red-light district.
  • Bob Crewe wrote this song with Kenny Nolan. Crewe is a producer who worked on many songs in the '60s, including hits by The Four Seasons. "Lady Marmalade" was not typical of Crewe's work, but it was the biggest and last hit he worked on. It became the biggest hit for the songwriting/production team of Crewe and Nolan, and strangely, it replaced another one of their songs, "My Eyes Adored You" by Frankie Valli, at #1 in America in March 1975. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Adam - Dewsbury, England
  • The song was originally recorded by the disco group The Eleventh Hour, which was made up of studio musicians and featured Kenny Nolan's vocals. Their version was released in the summer of 1974 and went nowhere. Labelle recorded the song at the suggestion of their producer Allen Toussaint, who recorded it with the group in New Orleans at his Sea-Saint studios (he also did the arrangements and played the piano). Their version was released in October 1974 and climbed to #1 in the US on March 29, 1975.
  • Labelle turned this song into an outrageous party anthem, which went along with their glamorous look and sexy persona, earning them a huge following in the gay community. To anyone paying attention, the song was highly suggestive, and it did ruffle some feathers, partly because it seemed to glamorize prostitution.

    In a 1986 interview with NME Patti LaBelle explained: "That song was taboo. I mean, why sing about a hooker? Why not? I had a good friend who was a hooker, and she died. She never took the mike out of my mouth and I never took the mattress from under her. She was a friend, doing her thing. It'd be like discriminating because you're white and I'm black, or you're gay and someone's straight. I don't believe in separating people. If your job is as a hooker, more power to you."
  • In the same NME interview, LaBelle claimed she didn't know the real meaning of the song until much later. Said Patti: "I thought people would boo us because we'd gone too far. I was afraid of change. But when we went out and did it, I said 'good!' Three outrageous black women who wore and said anything onstage... Although with 'Lady Marmalade' I swear I had no idea for a while what it meant, until I asked Bob Crewe, who recorded it, 'what's voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?' He told me, 'Oh gosh', I said, 'what will my mother think?'"
  • This is the only hit credited to Labelle. Patti LaBelle, the lead singer of the trio, recorded in the '60s as Patti LaBelle And The Blue Belles, and in the '80s as a solo artist. Another member, Nona Hendryx, went on to a very eclectic solo career that included a Captain Beefheart tribute. The third member, Sarah Dash, had a minor hit in 1979 with "Sinner Man" and toured extensively with Keith Richards.
  • Labelle were on their way to the airport when Bob Crewe called their producer Vicki Wickham and asked her to bring the girls to his house first. When they got there, Crewe played them "Lady Marmalade" on the piano. "We knew it was a hit," Patti Labelle recalled to Mojo magazine. "Even though we didn't know what 'Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir' meant, it was a statement, and that melody, it kept bouncing in my mind."
  • In 2001, Missy Elliott produced a new version with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, and Pink that was used in the Nicole Kidman movie Moulin Rouge. This remake was wildly successful, connecting with a new audience and winning the 2001 Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. It also got the approval of Patti LaBelle, who said that she loved it. Mya said that she used to sing the original version around the house when she was a kid. She never knew what the French part meant, and her mom, who spoke French, didn't tell her.
  • The Missy Elliott version won Video of the Year at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. The video featured the singers dressed as prostitutes, which is how they performed it on the show. That MTV performance is included as an extra on the Moulin Rouge DVD.
  • The female British pop group All Saints covered "Lady Marmalade" in 1998. Their version got little attention in America, but went to #1 in the UK, one of five chart-toppers for the group from 1997-2000. The producer Timbaland remixed their version for the 1998 movie Dr. Dolittle.
  • In the UK, both the All Saints and Missy Elliott cover versions went to #1. This was the first time a song topped the UK charts twice but didn't in its original version. In 2005 this happened again when Steve Brookstein hit the top of the UK charts with "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" four years after Westlife featuring Mariah Carey did the same; Phil Collins' original reached #2.
  • Patti LaBelle performed the song with Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Pink, and Mya at the 2002 Grammy Awards.
  • "Lady Marmalade" is the only song to top both the UK and US charts twice: in the UK by All Saints and Missy Elliott, in the US by Labelle and Missy Elliott.
  • When the Missy Elliott version hit #1, Lil' Kim became the first female rap artist to appear on a #1 single.
  • Sheila E. did a cover of this song on her 1991 set Sex Cymbal. She originally wanted to cover Tower of Power's "What Is Hip?" but the horn section was unavailable, so she "settled" for this number instead. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Faundell - Brooklyn, NJ
  • The song's producer, Allen Toussaint, spiced it up with lots of New Orleans flavor. Toussaint, who died in 2015 at 77, was musical royalty in the city and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. He wrote the Glen Campbell hit "Southern Nights" and recorded the original version.
  • In 2015, this was used in a commercial for Estée Lauder Modern Muse Le Rouge perfume. The spot shows Kendall Jenner getting lots of attention as she walks down the street. There's even a shot of a red light, perhaps an allusion to the red-light district invoked in the song. Using a song about prostitutes to sell perfume does seem strange, but it's far from the first surprising use of a song in a commercial.
  • In 2021, the Library of Congress announced that "Lady Marmalade" had been entered into the National Recording Registry, making it, officially, a national treasure.

Comments: 37

  • Kristi from MiamiMy Mama (who is from New Orleans) now age 80, always insisted that the man married Lady Marmalade. She sites ” Now he’s at home doing 9-5/living his grey flannel life/but when he turns down the street/old memories creep…” as proof that he’s reminiscing how he met his wife!
  • Poker Militant from Jackson, Ms.That song was and still is " off the chain" Props to every singer who has ever sang it.
  • AnonymousLady Marmalade not only breaks polite mores with respect to sex. Her "mocha chocolata" and "Cafe au lait" skin color are evidently the result of racial mixing which was long banned in many states, especially in the South. Though the laws could not be enforced after 1967, social expectations tended to linger into the 1970s and beyond, including an incident as late as 2009 (
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaMore stupid censorship crap -- it was never subverting the youth of America/etc -- the original chorus was just a cute French saying, that gave rhythm to a SONG, a SONG, people! Get the F over yourselves! It was not promoting rape as some modern rap does; it was simply a playful flirtation. -- a lot less vulgar than things usually are in a whore house, I suspect. NO VICTIMS!! Victimless crimes should not be "crimes." Bloody hell, you monkeys piss me off!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 6th 1975, Labelle performed "Lady Marmalade" on the CBS-TV program 'The Cher Show'...
    At the time the song was in its second week at #7 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; two weeks earlier on March 23rd, 1975 it had peaked at #1 for 1 week {See second post below}.
  • K.c. from NhI loved the original when I was a child (I turned 11 in 1975), but I have to admit that I was blown away by the Mya/Xtina/Pink/Lil Kim version! When LaBelle showed up on stage during the Grammys with them, I burst into tears. It was incredible. Oh, and I still have my original 45 of LaBelle's.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 4th 1976, Labelle performed "Lady Marmalade" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Just over nineteen months earlier on December 29th, 1974 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #98; and on March 23rd, 1975 it peaked at #1 {for 1 week} and spent 18 weeks on the Top 100...
    On February 16th, 1975 it also reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    And on it day it peaked at #1 on the Hot Top 100 it also reached #1 {for 1 week} on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart…
    Labelle had one other Top 100 record, "What Can I Do for You?”, it stayed on the chart for 6 weeks, peaking at #48...
    Patti Labelle, born Patricia Louise Hole, celebrated her 70th birthday four months ago on May 24th {2014}.
  • Markantney from Biloxi, MsApr 2014: The Original stands alone on it's one as one of the best songs of it's era certainly but of alltime (being it was a top song for: R&B, Disco, Clubs, Sororities, Frats, Black-White Parties, Pop,..) and considering how unique it was to sing about such a subject back then and it was great song on it's on w/o the controversy. The Remake is decent and I kinda like these remakes for it brings attention to the originals.

    And the young ladies that redid it, give/gave major props to Patti, which she in turn gives props to the other members of her (famed) group.

    Something my man Vanilla Ice learned a tad late.
  • Sivon from Fort Worth, Tx@Krysha, Nanette sang it in 1976, LaBelle's version was 1974.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyJohn Lennon LOVED this song. He'd frequently start singing it out loud, when the mood struck him. He especially liked the sexually suggestive French lyrics. It reminded him of when he was a teenager in Liverpool when Paul would use French-sounding words to try to seduce girls. Paul confirmed this many years later but confessed "It didn't work!"
  • John from Nashville, TnWhen Labelle performed this song on the Cher variety show in 1975, the censors made them change the French lyrics to "Would you like to dance with me tonight?"
  • John from Nashville, TnThe success of this song inspired the Jacksons to leave Motown and sign with CBS. Manager Joe Jackson figured that if CBS could get a #1 hit on a group that was pretty much considered dead, then imagine what this company could do for his sons.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThe French Quarter itself is not the red light district; the remarks about Storyville by Marie in Brooklyn are accurate. P.S. I detested the remake.
  • Nadia from Phoenix, AzLil Kim wrote her part, but does not get credit for it.
  • Nadia from Phoenix, AzBoth Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
    Once when It came out and once with the Waynes World soundtrack went to number one
    And The Twist by Chubby Checker, One summer, then the Next Summer
    Also are song that went to number one more than once.
  • Tonya from Sharon Grove, Kyive always been under the impression that it meant will you come and have sex with me... Oh Well to each his own
  • Mary from Canyon, TxAndy Hallett (Lorne on Angel : the Series) also covered this song in a season 4 episode The House Always Wins. It's also on the Angel soundtrack, Live Fast, Die Never. His cover is the closest I've heard to Patti's.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesYes, the remake definitely sucked. I'd like to see what EnVogue would have done with it.
  • Mjn Seifer from Not Listed For Personal Reason, EnglandItchi Gitchi Ya Ya Da Da
    Itchi Gitchi Ya Ya Here
    Mocha-choco-lata Ya Ya
    (La' Bron cah)
    No, no, no, no!
    Creole Lady Marmalade
  • Henry from Kingston, NyAnother song I'm embarrassed to like. This song has a great bassline, which could make me like any song, really.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThe original is better. The remake by Christina Aguillera, Pink, and the others was the first one I heard though.
  • Darren from Hull, EnglandMissy Elliot DID NOT have a UK number 1 with Lady Marmalade. Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya & Pink did
  • Nora from Philadelphia, PaPatti claimed to 'not know' what the French part of the song meant when the nuns who taught her in grade school in Philadelphia confronted her about the moral values of her big hit. Did she know? We'll never know, but maybe that's why it's in French!
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnThis was one of the great R & B hits of the mid 70s. I remember the remake by Christina Aguilera, Pink, L'il Kim and Mya but the original was way better.
  • Kryshya from Montreal, CanadaLady Marmelade was traduce and performed in french by Nanette Workman, an American blues singer from Mississipi (born in NY) who moved in Quebec. She was inducted into the "Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame". You should probably know her, she is one of the voice behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richard in "Honky Tonk Woman". Beside the Stones, Nanette also worked with John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and numerous other popular British recording artists. She left England for France and worked with Superstar Johnny Hallyday and went on world tour with him as his opening act. Then recorded another album, this time in English with Peter Frampton, Gary Wright, Mike Kelly and Andy Brown.

    Well, "coucher" does really mean "sleep with" with a sexual connotation and does not mean "bed" as it was said on a previous post. She gave the same sexual connotation to lyrics in french as in English.

    Actually, I always though that Lady Marmelade was at first sang by Nanette Workman, but just better known for Labelle interpretation. I already heard her say in an interview that she had collaborate to the creation of Lady Marmelade during a music jam in NYC with two other men (don't remember their name). Does somebody know something about it? I can't find any information about that on the net...

    According to the informations I have, Nanette would be a previous singer of Lady Marmelade(considering Labelle), sang it in both langage and she should be a co-author of the song.
  • John from Philadelphia, Pai prefer the original to the remake. it should also be noted that contrary to the remarks of the person from the netherlands, this song by itself didn't give Patti's career a boost. what kept patti in the game all these years is her way of redefining herself and reaching broader audiences. she's a best selling author, amazing cook and puts on a show like no one else
  • Martijn from Helmond, Netherlands'Coucher' does not mean 'bed' in French (that is 'lit'). It means 'lying down'. 'Se coucher' means 'going to bed' or 'going to sleep'. 'Coucher avec' means to sleep with or to go to bed with, with the same sexual connotation as in English. Patti definitely has the hots for the person she sings this song to. The Labelle trio wore outrageous science fiction costumes for their shows when this first came out in the seventies. I never cared much for the relatively talentless bombos that did the remake. If Patti says she likes it, it's probably because it gave her career a well neede boost.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesBoy George's version of "Everything I Own" didn't make No.1 in the US, only in the UK
  • Jaki from London, EnglandSorry for being Ms Picky Pickster, but not sure about your No.1 claim.

    Didn't both Ken Boothe some time in the mid-'70s and Boy George in about '87-ish have No.1s with (reggae-fied, at least) versions of Bread's Everything I Own?

    Excuse me while I get this call from Readers Digest.
  • Marie from Brooklyn, Nythe line "gitcha gitcha ya ya da da" means "get your pleasure here daddy" (see "get your ya yas out" by the rolling stones). also, the french quarter in new orleans was never really a red light district; there was an experiment with legal prostitution in an area known as storyville, adjacent to the french quarter, which ended in 1917 with the rise of WW1 and a prohibition of brothels within a 5 mile radius of navy yards. loved the "my eyes adored you" detail!
  • Nate from Newport News, VaOn a BET profile program Patti told a story about a time in the 60s when she was with the Blue Belles and they and the Supremes were either going to be on the same TV program or performing at the same show. Patti says Diana Ross saw what dresses they were going to wear and went out and got the Supremes to wear the same thing. Patti was mad because Diana knew that was all they had and the Supremes could wear anything they wanted.
  • Nate from Newport News, Va'Supposedly' Patti LaBelle didn't know what this song meant until after it was recorded and was reportedly embarrassed by it. I find that hard to believe since by '74 she had been in the music business for about 10 years and wasn't exactly a child.
  • Shell from Riverdale, Ga"Coucher" is French for "bed", so it's "Will you go to bed with me tonight?".
  • Chas from Webster, NyIsnt it weird that a #1 vid. on mtv features scantily clad women seducing the audience? lol, just found that funny
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesI don't like the remake, but it was nothing like as bas as All Saints' version - YEEARGH!!!
  • Jason from Wylie, Txthe remake song is ok to me and the video is even better super hot!!
  • Jack from Raleigh, Ncwow, did the remake SUCK or what?

see more comments

Editor's Picks

Ralph Casale  - Session Pro

Ralph Casale - Session ProSongwriter Interviews

A top New York studio musician, Ralph played guitar on many '60s hits, including "Lightnin' Strikes," "A Lover's Concerto" and "I Am A Rock."

Christopher Cross

Christopher CrossSongwriter Interviews

The man who created Yacht Rock with "Sailing" wrote one of his biggest hits while on acid.

Daryl Hall

Daryl HallSongwriter Interviews

Daryl Hall's TV show is a hit, and he's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - only one of these developments excites him.

Maria Muldaur

Maria MuldaurSongwriter Interviews

The "Midnight At The Oasis" singer is an Old Time gal. She talks about her jug band beginnings and shares a Dylan story.

Adam Young of Owl City

Adam Young of Owl CitySongwriter Interviews

Is Owl City on a quest for another hit like "Fireflies?" Adam answers that question and explains the influences behind many others.

David Bowie Leads the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men

David Bowie Leads the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired MenSong Writing

Bowie's "activist" days of 1964 led to Ziggy Stardust.