Who is “Lady Marmalade?”

Here at The College of New Jersey, nearly 8,000 students are attending school on the border of one of the most historic cities in the United States, but many of them do not know it. Trenton used to be the industrial hub of the northeast because of its convenient location between two major cities, New York and Philadelphia. Besides this it was also home to many musicians, that most do not know came out of Trenton. Because of Trenton’s current status, many people do not know how historically important the city is, or the relevance of the city in music history.
One important piece of music that came out of Trenton was the renowned song “Lady Marmalade” recorded by LaBelle. LaBelle was a group with Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, and Sarah Dash. Two of these three women, Dash and Hendryx, both came out of Trenton. The song caught the attention of many listeners, but many young people do not recognize the song as something older or out of Trenton because of the remake that was done by Pink and Christina Aguilera in the early 2000s. Despite the Trenton roots of the artists, the song is about New Orleans, specifically about a prostitute in New Orleans in the French Quarter who a young business man cannot stay away from because he so tempted by her beauty. This is why the chorus of the song is in French. The song is not only lyrically catchy and unique, it draws so many different types of music, which is why so many people fell in love with it.
When interviewed, students of The College of New Jersey did not know much about the Trenton music scene, or specifically that the song “Lady Marmalade” came out of Trenton musicians. Jessica Faith, a junior communication studies major here at the College, was completely unaware of how important music is in Trenton’s history. When asked who the song “Lady Marmalade” was by and what is its significance with Trenton, she answered that it was by Pink, and she was not sure of what it had to do with Trenton. “The only thing I knew Trenton to be famous for was industrial stuff in the early 1900s, the bridge says “Trenton Makes The World Takes,” what I did not know was Trenton was also making music,” said Jessica. Another student interviewed, Matthew Hardy, also a junior at the College, said he had heard of LaBelle, but did not know much about Trenton music history. “I thought I was well informed, but apparently I didn’t know about the fascinating music scene in Trenton. I will also have to listen to the original “Lady Marmalade” because apparently I have only heard a cover of the song,” said Matthew. Courtney Ling, a junior graphic design major, knew about Trenton’s past music scene because of the punk music revival there, and the Punk Rock Flea Market they occasionally host in Trenton. As for other music, she drew a blank, specifically, like everyone else, believing that “Lady Marmalade” was originally the Christina Aguilera and Pink song. “I knew about the punk scene, what I did not know was the music scene as a whole, there seems to be a lot more for me to learn,” said Courtney.
Dr. Teresa Marrin Nakra, the Associate Professor of Music at The College of New Jersey, knows a lot about the rich history of Trenton as a whole and the music scene there. She offered a ton of insight as to why students were unaware of the music history. One important thing Dr. Nakra said is we do not think of music as local anymore because the dawn of technology, music is global because of things like Spotify. Dr. Nakra explained that the Trenton schools were always renowned for their music program, so much so that students from the high school attending the College for music were automatically signed out of their introductory music courses. Besides having a renowned education in music, performing used to be the norm in Trenton, a past time of people up until about the 80s was attending open mic nights and performing. Especially throughout the 1960s, people just went out and performed and did not think there was anything out of the ordinary about it. Dr. Nakra called it a “doo wap a capella renaissance.” This is how LaBelle was discovered, specifically Hendryx and Dash and how “Lady Marmalade” became a hit. She said students do not know about this history because they see Trenton for what it is now and there is not many people promoting the history of Trenton on campus so people know more about Trenton like the song “Lady Marmalade.” She said if we promote it online or on mobile phones, students will get a glimpse, even if we get ten second sound clips on the radio, students will learn more.
To conclude, Dr. Nakra said that Trenton is ready for a rebirth, but it has not yet hit is turning point. If we educate people, maybe it can spark a rebirth or at least teach students about the town that is just on the border of us, and the rich history that it provides.

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