Joni Sledge, singer and songwriter of Sister Sledge, was found dead at 60
American singer Joni Sledge, one of four sisters who interpreted disco success “We Are Family”, died at the age of 60 at her home in Arizona on March 10, 2017, announced her loved ones. Joni Sledge had not been ill and was found dead by a friend. The cause of her death has not yet been determined, said her agent Biff Warren. "We miss her and her presence, her brilliance and the sincerity with which she loved life is missing," her family wrote in a statement.
With three of her sisters, Debbie, Kim and Kathy, singer Joni Sledge was one of the voices of the vocal group Sister Sledge, which became famous in 1979 with the songs “We Are Family” and “He's The Greatest Dancer”, which remain their best known tracks.
Joni Sledge, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 13, 1956, was part of a vocal training founded by her grandmother during her adolescence. From gospel, they moved, from the late 1960s, to soul music tinged with pop. The quartet recorded a first single in 1971 under the name Sisters' Sledge and the song “Time Will Tell” was a hit. The lead voice was entrusted to Kathy, who will usually be the principal interpreter of the group's most famous songs.
While continuing their studies, the sisters begin a small career. In 1973, they had a first success in Great Britain with the song “Mama Never Told Me” and the following year “Love Do not Go Through No Changes On Me” which allows them a better exposure. They are invited to the program "Soul Train" by Don Cornelius (1936-2012) which will receive them regularly. A first album, Circle of Love (Atco, 1975), a second album, Together (Cotillion Records, another label by Atlantic, 1977), featuring a composition by Joni Sledge, Hold On to This Feeling, did not get the success hoped by their producers.
The four sisters plan to change their professional perspectives: Debbie went through the Fine Arts, Kim studied pan-African and economics, Joni audiovisual, and Kathy completed her training as a social worker and therapist for children. Atlantic then proposed a collaboration with guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards (1952-1996), whose Chic band became the benchmark for soul-disco-funk with the songs Dance Dance Dance and Everybody Dance in 1977.
We Are The Family's success
While working on Chic's second album, C'est Chic, released in August 1978 and including the huge tube Le Freak, Rodgers and Edward prepare the record that will reveal Sister Sledge. The entire band is there, including drummer Tony Thompson (1954-2003) and keyboardist Raymond Jones, wind and strings section, chorus singers. With the four sisters pictures in white dresses on the album, We Are Family was published in January 1979 for Cotillion. The eight songs are written by Rodgers and Edwards, the ensemble sound that of the Chic band, sophisticated, funky and rhythmic precision ideal for dancing. Three singles, including The Greatest Dancer, were released in late December 1978, We Are Family, sung by Kathy, and Lost In Music, with Joni as lead.
The following album, Love Somebody Today, again with Rodgers, Edwards and Chic, was released in May 1980, without achieving the same results, despite the good sales of the singles Got To Love Somebody and Reach Your Peak, a song that puts Joni Sledge to significance. In 1981, the production of the album All American Girls was entrusted to the drummer Narada Michael Walden, who was part of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Jeff Beck Group during the jazz-rock period. Which keeps the interest of the general public for Sister Sledge.
Subsequently, several albums, one or two successful singles (Frankie in 1985, produced by Rodgers), were released, but it is in the memory of the repertoire with Rodgers and Edwards that Sister Sledge continues to attract audiences on tour. In 1989, Kathy left the group to lead a solo career and Sister Sledge remained a trio of which Kim moved away from the early 2000s. In 1997, Joni Sledge produced the ninth of the ten albums of the band, African Eyes.
The date of Joni Sledge’s funeral has not been announced.