The singer, known for the 70s disco anthem We Are Family, was found dead in her home in Phoenix, Arizona
By Associated Press / Saturday, March 11, 2017
Joni Sledge, who with her sisters recorded the defining dance anthem We Are Family, has died, the band’s representative has said.
Sledge, 60, was found dead in her home in Phoenix, Arizona, by a friend on Friday, the band’s publicist, Biff Warren, said on Saturday. A cause of death has not been determined.
“On yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We welcome your prayers as we weep the loss of our sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin,” read a family statement.
Sledge and her sisters Debbie, Kim and Kathy formed the Sister Sledge in 1971 in Philadelphia, their hometown, but struggled for years before success came.
“The four of us had been in the music business for eight years and we were frustrated. We were saying: ‘Well, maybe we should go to college and just become lawyers or something other than music, because it really is tough’,” Sledge told The Guardian in an interview in 2016.
But then they met Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of the hit group Chic, and their breakout soon came. The pair wrote and produced their album We Are Family, and soon the women had their first major hit with disco jam He’s The Greatest Dancer, which became a top-10 hit in May 1979. (It would sampled years later for Will Smith’s hit Getting Jiggy Wit It.)
Joni Sledge performs with Sister Sledge for Pope Francis during the Festival of Families in Philadelphia in 2015. Photograph: Matt Rourke/EPA
But their biggest hit would come a month later with the title track, an infectious dance anthem that celebrated their familial connection with the refrain, “We are family, I got all my sisters with me”.
While it celebrated their sisterhood, the 1979 hit so also became an anthem for female empowerment and unity. It would become their signature hit and was nominated for a Grammy. Both the song and album sold more than 1m copies.
How we made Sister Sledge’s We Are Family READ MORE
The also had hits with Lost In Music, Thinking Of You and, in 1982, a cover of the Mary Wells song, My Guy, but would never duplicate the success they had in the 1970s.
Still, Sister Sledge continued; while sister Kathy left the group for a solo career, the trio of sisters continued to perform and record, including a performance for Pope Francis in 2015. Warren said they last performed together in concert in October.
Sledge is survived by an adult son besides her sisters and other relatives.