"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 the relatively obscure group Eleventh Hour (of which songwriter Nolan was a member) 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, which would become highly successful. The record was produced by Toussaint, with instrumental backing from The Meters.
Although the song gave way to many cover versions over the years, the most successful was recorded in 2001 by singers Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink as a single for the Moulin Rouge! film's soundtrack. 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 whole new generation of music listeners, and brought the song's infamous catchphrase back into mainstream culture.
In 2004, LaBelle's original version of "Lady Marmalade" was ranked #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)?".