Saturday, September 27, 2014

Song Spot: Lady Marmalade




When driving home a couple of days ago I heard Lady Marmalade on the radio. Apart from knowing that it was redone for Moulin Rouge (I haven’t seen the film but I believe that only the audio is featured, the clip of the singers performing it being part of the extras), and what the French words mean, I knew little else about the song. That intrigued me so I looked into it. Here are some facts and trivia . . .

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See it and hear it by clicking on the following links:

Labelle’s 1974 version:
(manhole covers for earrings and not a feather left in New Orleans when this was made, 1970’s fathsion)

Patti LaBelle performing the number live at the White House, 2014:
(She still has it, and how!)

The Moulin Rouge version with Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink:

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Lyrics:

"Lady Marmalade"

Labelle version

Hey Sister, Go Sister, Soul Sister, Go Sister [x2]
He met Marmalade down in Old New Orleans
Struttin' her stuff on the street
She said 'Hello,
Hey Joe, you wanna give it a go?
'Mmm Hmmm Gitchi Gitchi Ya Ya Da Da
Gitchi Gitchi Ya Ya
Here
Mocca chocolata Ya Ya
Creole Lady Marmalade
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?
He savored her cool
While she freshed up
That boy drank all that magnolia wine
On the black satin sheets where
He started to freak
Gitchi Gitchi Ya Ya Da Da
Gitchi Gitchi Ya Ya Here
Mocca chocalata Ya Ya
Creole Lady Marmalade
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?
Heh, Heh, Hehhhh
Seeing her skin feeling silky smooth
Colour of cafe au lait
Made the savage beast inside
Roaring till it cried More, More, More
Now he's at home doing 9 to 5
Living his brave life of lies
But when he turns off to sleep
All memories keep More, More, More
Gitchi Gitchi Ya Ya Da Da Da
Gitchi Gitchi Ya Ya here
Mocca chocolata Ya Ya
Creole Lady Marmalade
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?
Voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir?
Creole Lady Marmalade

"Lady Marmalade"
(feat. Mya, Pink, Lil' Kim, Missy Elliott)

[Lil’ kim:]
Where’s all mah soul sistas
Lemme hear ya’ll flow sistas

[Mya:]
Hey sista, go sista, soul sista, flow sista
Hey sista, go sista, soul sista, go sista

[Mya:]
He met Marmalade down IN old Moulin Rouge
Struttin’ her stuff on the street
She said, "Hello, hey Jo, you wanna give it a go?" Oh! uh huh

[Chorus:]
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada (Hey hey hey)
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya here (here)
Mocha Chocalata ya ya (oh yea)
Creole lady Marmalade

[Lil’ Kim:]
What What, What what
[Mya:]
ooh oh

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir
Voulez vous coucher avec moi

[Lil’ Kim:]
yea yea yea yea

[Pink:]
He sat in her boudoir while she freshened up
Boy drank all that Magnolia wine
On her black satin sheets is where he started to freak
yeah

[Chorus:]
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada (da-da-da)
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya here (here ohooh yea yeah)
Mocha Choca lata ya ya (yea)
Creole lady Marmalade

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir (ce soir, what what what)
Voulez vous coucher avec moi

[Lil’ Kim:]
yea yea uh
He come through with the money in the garter belts
I let him know we bout that cake straight up the gate uh
We independent women, some mistake us for whores
I'm sayin‘, why spend mine when I can spend yours
Disagree? Well that's you and I’m sorry
Imma keep playing these cats out like Atari
wearing high heel shoes, getting love from the dudes
4 bad ass chicks from the Moulin Rouge
hey sistas, soul sistas, betta get that dough sistas
We drink wine with diamonds in the glass
by the case the meaning of expensive taste
if you wanna Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya
Mocha Chocalate-a what?
Creole Lady Marmalade
One more time C’mon now

Marmalade... Lady Marmalade... Marmalade...

[Christina:]
hey Hey Hey!
Touch of her skin feeling silky smooth
color of cafe au lait alright
Made the savage beast inside roar until he cried,
More-more-more

[Pink:]
Now he's back home doin' 9 to 5

[Mya:]
Sleepin' the grey flannel life
[Christina:]
But when he turns off to sleep memories creep,
More-more-more

[Chorus:]
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya dada (da daeaea yea)
Giuchie, Giuchie, ya ya here (ooh)
Mocha Choca lata ya ya (yea)
Creole lady Marmalade

Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir (ce soir)
Voulez vous coucher avec moi (all my sistas yea)
Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir (ce soir)
Voulez vous coucher avec moi (C‘Mon! uh)

[Missy:]
Christina...(oh Leaeaa Oh)
Pink... (Lady Marmalade)
Lil’ Kim...(hey Hey! uh uh uh uh...)
Mya...(Oh Oh oooo)
Rockwilder baby...(baby)
Moulin Rouge... (0h)
Misdemeanor here...

Creole Lady Marmalade Yes-ah......

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The song was released in 1974 by the group Labelle. Written by Bob Crew and Kenny Nolan, it was released as the first single from the album Nightbirds and was inspired by Crewe's first-hand observations of New Orleans prostitutes, the French Quarter being near the city’s red light district. The lyrics are the words of a prostitute.

This was the biggest and last hit Crews worked on. It became the biggest hit for the songwriting/production team of Crewe and Nolan, the song replacing another one of their songs, "My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli, as US #1 in March 1975.

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The phrase "Voulez-vous couchez avec moi ce soir?" means "Do you want to go to bed with me (tonight)?"  It appears in Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire. Also, in 1973, former porn star-turned-Italian politician Iloner Staller (Cicciolina) achieved fame with a radio show called "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?" on Radio Luna. 

Even before Williams’ play the phrase was featured in John Dos Passo’s 1920 novel Three Soldiers. A poem by E E Cummings published in 1922 and known by its first line "little ladies more" contains the phrase "voulez-vous coucher avec moi?" twice.

In 1995, the British soap opera Coronation Street featured a memorable humorous moment when Ken Barlow teaches French to dizzy blonde Raquel Watts:
Raquel: "I met a French man in Corfu who taught me how to say isn't it a lovely day today."
Ken: "Right, let's put a sentence together. I want you to say to me in French 'Hello Ken. My name is Raquel. Isn't it a lovely day today?'
Raquel: "Ooh, clever. Right, here goes. Bonjour Ken. Je m'appelle Raquel. Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?"

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Labelle turned this song into an outrageous party anthem which went along with their glamorous look and sexual 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."

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A regular Sunday Baptist churchgoer, LaBelle was mortified to find out what the song was about, and what the French words meant, after recording it. 

“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. [When she found out]... suddenly I felt all alone, that I’d done something wrong to the church, that I’d turned into some kind of bad girl. It took courage and faith to go back. But when I walked in there, I got a few looks, and then I got the smiles and the hugs and the love. Hey, hookers are people too. Love is what it’s all about honey. Love is gospel and gospel is love.”

In another interview, in 1981, she stated:

"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?'"

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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 mum, 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.

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When Labelle performed this song on the Cher variety show in 1975, the censors made them change the French lyrics to Voulez-vous danser avec moi ce soir" (Do you want to dance with me, tonight?). 

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The 2001 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.

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The line "gitcha gitcha ya ya da da" means "Get your pleasure here daddy" (See "get your ya yas out" by the Rolling Stones). 

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Patricia Louise Holte-Edwards (1944 - ), better known under the stage name Patti LaBelle, is an American singer, author, and actress. She has spent over 50 years in the music industry, 16 years as lead singer of Patti LaBelle and the BlueBelles, who changed their name to Labelle in the early 1970s. Labelle are also noted for being the first African American group to play at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera House and the first African American vocal group to land the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.


Apart from continuing to perform, in 1996 LaBelle issued her autobiography, Don't Block the Blessings. She released her first of five cookbooks in 1997, and in 2006, released the book Patti's Pearls. In addition, LaBelle began to sell collections of spices, lipstick and even wigs on her website. Her wig collection, Especially Yours, was sold for some time but has since stopped.

Patti LaBelle is also commonly identified as the "Godmother of Soul", the "High Priestess of Good Vibrations", and the "Queen of Rock "n" Soul".

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