Joni Sledge, of ‘We Are Family’ Dance Group, Dies

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Sister Sledge in their heyday

If you’ve ever danced to, or at least heard—and who hasn’t?—“We Are Family,” then you know that Sister Sledge was one of the groups that defined the disco era of the late ’70s. One of those four sisters, Joni Sledge, died in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 10, according to multiple news reports. She was found in her home by a friend—the cause of death has not yet been determined. Sledge was 60.

“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 Sister Sledge in their hometown of Philadelphia in 1971, and placed their first single— “Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes on Me,” on Atco Records—on the Billboard R&B chart in late 1974. (It also scraped onto the bottom of the pop chart.)

Joni Sledge (photo from the group’s Facebook page)

In 1979, now on Cotillion Records, they were taken under the wing of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, who produced their album We Are Family. The album itself reached #3 in the Billboard LP chart and the first single, “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” went to #1 0n the R&B singles chart and also made the pop top 10. Just a couple of months later, they followed it with “We Are Family,” which reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and #2 pop. The dance number became an anthem of female empowerment as well as a song played at countless weddings and other such events.

Sister Sledge continued to find success in the R&B world into the mid-’80s and made a brief comeback in 1992. (Their final pop chart placement came in 1985.)

One of the sisters, Kathy Sledge, left the group for a solo career while the other three continued as Sister Sledge. They last performed together in October 2016.

Watch the official video for “We Are Family”

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  1. Mike L
    #1 Mike L 13 March, 2017, 01:04

    Love We are family!! One of the funkiest disco tunes ever recorded. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards are/were musical geniuses. Chic was great last summer at forest hills tiny tennis stadium with Earth wind and fire!! Also saw them at a free outdoor concert in Coney island years ago with Omar Hakim on drums. That was smokin! Sadly, Bernard Edwards had either passed away a little while before or wasn’t touring with them..Can’t remember. RIP Joni Sledge ..pardon me for not speaking more of sister sledge..I really only know that one album Nile and Bernard produced.

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