"Lady Marmalade" is a 1974 song made famous by the girl group Labelle. Produced by Allen Toussaint, "Lady Marmalade" became a number-one hit the next year. An early funk hit, the song is most famous for its sexually suggestive chorus of "voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?" The song held the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States for one week. Labelle's version of "Lady Marmalade" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.
"Lady Marmalade" was written by Bob Crewe (who co-wrote many of the hits recorded by The Four Seasons) and Kenny Nolan. The songwriting pair had previously collaborated on the hit Frankie Valli song "My Eyes Adored You". The song came about after Crewe made first-hand observations in New Orleans. First recorded by Nolan's group Eleventh Hour in 1974 on Eleventh Hour's Greatest Hits LP, Labelle's producer Allen Toussaint decided to record it as the main track for the album Nightbirds. The record was produced by Toussaint, with instrumental backing from The Meters.
The song has received many cover versions over the years, including a 2001 version by singers Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink as a single for the Moulin Rouge! film's soundtrack. Missy Elliott produced the version, with instrumental help from beatsmith Rockwilder. The song was mixed by world renowned audio engineer Dave "Hard Drive" Pensado. Their version was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. for five weeks, from May 26 to June 30, 2001. The Moulin Rouge! version of "Lady Marmalade" was also a number-one hit in the United Kingdom and Australia, introducing the song to a new generation of music listeners, and brought the song's infamous catchphrase back into mainstream culture. The 2001 version won Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mya, and Pink each a grammy.
In 2004, LaBelle's original version of "Lady Marmalade" was ranked number 479 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In the United Kingdom, the song has been sung on several talent shows, including The X Factor by Leona Lewis, and on Eurovision: Your Country Needs You by Jade Ewen, where in both instances, the lyric "voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?" was changed to "voulez-vous chanter avec moi (ce soir)?" (do you want to sing with me (tonight)?).
Recorded with lead singer Patti LaBelle and accompanied with backing from bandmates Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, it tells the story of a Creole woman known only as "Lady Marmalade", who seduces a man she met on the street in New Orleans, Louisiana. Although the man has moved on from the experience, his memories of their tryst remain vivid when he tries to sleep. The song's chorus, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?", means "Do you want to sleep with me (tonight)?" in French, an unsubtle invitation to sexual intercourse. The same line appeared previously in the play A Streetcar Named Desire, coming from the promiscuous Blanche DuBois.
"Lady Marmalade" was a number-one hit for one week on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States during the early spring of 1975, and charted at number-one for one week on the Billboard Top Soul Singles chart. "Along with the track, What Can I Do For You?", "Lady Marmalade" peaked at number seven on the disco/dance charts. The single also charted at number seventeen in the United Kingdom. "Lady Marmalade" replaced another Crewe/Nolan composition, Frankie Valli's "My Eyes Adored You", as the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single. This made Crewe and Nolan the third songwriting team in Billboard history (after Lennon-McCartney and Holland-Dozier-Holland) to replace themselves at number-one.
The single's disco success inspired Labelle to adopted a more eclectic, Funkadelic-based image for their next album, Phoenix. However, the group never had another top forty hit after "Lady Marmalade", and broke up in 1976. Patti LaBelle went on to have a successful solo career on another CBS Records-owned label, Epic Records and later with Philadelphia International Records and MCA Records. Also in 1975, Nanette Workman recorded a French version that became very popular in Canada (Quebec).
The song was first covered by Sheila E. on her 1991 album Sex Cymbal in a jazz-oriented rendition, with horns as the centerpiece. In 1995 disco cover band Boogie Knights covered "Lady Marmalade", fronted by singer Jeff Scott Soto. In 1999, the song was covered by the techno act Lords Of Acid as a bonus track on their remix album Expand Your Head. The song is not part of the official track listing on the CD itself, however. Luck Mervil made a second French version of the song.
More recently, the track has featured in the TV series Angel, performed by actor Andy Hallett, and was released on the soundtrack in 2005.
The Labelle version appears in several films, including The Long Kiss Goodnight, Dick, and Jacob's Ladder. In March 2008, Comcast began to use the song and its "more, more, more" refrain to promote its "On Demand" service the ad also features the "voulez-vous" line as the ad ends.
Improbably, the lyrics of "Lady Marmalade" were sung to the tune of the Toreador Song from Carmen by Tim Brooke-Taylor on the radio comedy panel-game show, "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" as part of a round called "One Song to the Tune of Another".
It was featured on the video game Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 as a version performed with Patti LaBelle.
The song remains Patti LaBelle's signature hit song.