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Fans of Girls Aloud and British pop music are still mourning the loss of Sarah Harding, who died over the weekend at the age of 39.
Sarah revealed last year that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer which had spread to other parts of her body, with her mum confirming on Sunday afternoon that the chart-topping singer had “slipped away peacefully” that morning.
Following the news, Sarah’s peers and fans have been paying tribute and sharing memories of her, pointing out that not only was she a member of Girls Aloud, she had a pivotal role in taking the group to the heights they reached, and making them as memorable and loved as they were during their decade-long reign.
To pay tribute to Sarah’s legacy following her tragic death, we’re remembering 12 of her greatest moments from her time in the public eye...
1. Landing her spot in Girls Aloud
Sarah was such a pivotal part of what made Girls Aloud so special, it’s easy to forget that she could have missed out on a spot in the group completely.
Girls Aloud were formed on the one-off series Popstars: The Rivals, which saw the public voting for which aspiring singers they wanted to land a spot in the finished girl group.
After Cheryl, Nadine, Nicola and Kimberley all took their places in what would eventually become the award-winning, chart-topping band, it was down to Sarah and Javine Hylton with only one space left.
And as the above clip proves, not only was Sarah eternally grateful to have viewers behind her, she also quite probably wasn’t expecting it.
2. Sound Of The Underground
Shortly after Popstars: The Rivals came to an end, Girls Aloud released their debut single Sound Of The Underground, with Sarah given the distinction of singing the very first line on the track.
Sound Of The Underground went on to become one of Girls Aloud’s signature tunes, and was 2002’s Christmas number one, beating boyband One True Voice to the punch and making them the official winners of Popstars: The Rivals.
3. Whole Lotta History
Obviously “walking Primrose” is iconic but this is my fave Sarah moment. Just sublime 💔 pic.twitter.com/jQkJx8fMwT
— Dame Lady Jaz (@ladyjazmana) September 5, 2021
As Girls Aloud’s profile rose, the band got a reputation for their boisterous, rambunctious and fiery personalities, something Sarah always seemed more than up for playing up to within the media during that time.
So it was always nice when she was able to show a different side to herself, particularly in Girls Aloud’s music, such as this closing section of the ballad Whole Lotta History.
Nicola’s “hello, did you call me?” may have made her the queen of the quiet refrain, but Sarah’s final solo keeps the melancholic beauty of the song going to the very end.
4. Touring with Girls Aloud
Sarah wrote in her 2021 book Hear Me Out that Girls Aloud’s producers didn’t like them to ad lib too much in their recordings, so it was in live performances that she really let herself experiment with her voice.
Did it always pay off? Admittedly not, but it did most of the time and that’s when she really shone – and it was Sarah’s fearlessness that endeared her to many of Girls Aloud’s fans during their time in the spotlight.
My favorite Sarah Harding moment. The other girls look so proud. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/AsJVtt1FpC
— rikke (@Slightly2Wasted) September 5, 2021
5. Off The Record
The reality show Girls Aloud: Off The Record really held the magnifying glass up to the girls’ strong personalities, and Sarah was no exception.
During its six episodes, we saw Sarah not only embracing her “wild child” reputation but also showing a more vulnerable side to her personality. But it’s the above clip that we think best represents not just Sarah but Off The Record in general.
During a visit to the Fifth Gear (totally dissimilar to Top Gear, obv) set, Sarah was done with filming for the day and had her eye on one of the show’s Ferraris, which she begged to be allowed to take for a test drive.
Unfortunately, an overzealous Sarah ended up crashing it before she’d even left the car park – before, completely undeterred, excitedly taking it for a spin around the track anyway. Truly iconic behaviour from a truly iconic pop star.
6. The Promise
Yes, the vocal that Sarah will always be remembered for is the “walking primrose” part of The Promise, a line she once told us she apparently begged for because she was living in Primrose Hill at the time.
That section of The Promise was always a high point of Girls Aloud’s sets, not just because it’s so much fun for the crowd to sing along to, but because Sarah herself always got such a kick out of belting it out.
7. Winning the Brit Award
By the time Girls Aloud won their first Brit Award more than six years into their career, they were all very different from where they started out, with Cheryl and Nadine on the cusp of their solo careers and Nicola starting to garner her “cool” reputation as she experimented with fashion and beauty.
After a very sensible acceptance speech, which saw Kimberley thanking the band’s record label, producers and managers, Sarah proved the real spirit of Girls Aloud was still going strong.
Taking the microphone, Sarah infamously declared: “Can I just say… it’s about time!”
8. St Trinian’s 2
When Girls Aloud went their separate ways for what was supposed to be a year-long hiatus that eventually turned into three, Sarah decided to pursue a career in acting.
She won praise for her role in the TV drama Freefall, but it’s probably her role in the St Trinian’s sequel that most will remember her for. Proving her first love will always be music, she also recorded her first solo material for the film’s soundtrack, teaming up with long-time Girls Aloud producers Xenomania.
The film itself may not have stood the test of time, but Sarah’s three Xenomania collaborations have long been hidden gems for fans of the band.
9. The Ten tour
It has to be said – no one looked happier to have Girls Aloud back together for their 10-year anniversary than Sarah.
Not only was her joyful “follow the leader” refrain one of the high-points of comeback song Something New, she was emotional every single night when the group came together to perform the ballad I’ll Stand By You, one of their four number ones.
Some fans might prefer to gloss over Sarah’s various ventures into reality TV, which included stints on Masterchef and The Jump, among others, but to Sarah’s credit – she literally made it all the way to the final on Tumble.
The oft-forgotten show only ran for one series, and was essentially a gymnastics-led version of Strictly Come Dancing, with Sarah eventually finishing as runner up after this number in the final.
11. Winning Celebrity Big Brother
Again, it would be wrong to say that Sarah’s stint in the Celebrity Big Brother house was an easy ride, but to her credit – she was crowned that year’s champion, winning over the public just shy of 15 years after she did so on Popstars: The Rivals, the reality show that launched her into Girls Aloud.
12. Wear It Like A Crown
After a long spell out of the public eye, Sarah announced the devastating news in 2020 that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread to other parts of her body.
Sarah kept her fans regularly updated with progress in her treatment, and truly made the most of what would become the last year of her life. This included the release of the autobiography Hear Me Out, named after a song she co-wrote near the beginning of Girls Aloud, in which she shared her account of her time in the group and how she and her bandmates had reconciled and come together again after her diagnosis.
Not only this, she released the single Wear It Like A Crown, recorded earlier in her career, with proceeds going to The Christie NHS Foundation, who had cared for her.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.