Joni Sledge, who recorded the infectious dance anthem “We Are Family” with her three sisters, was found dead in her Phoenix home, the band’s rep said Saturday.
The 60-year-old member of Sister Sledge had not been ill, and her cause of death remains unclear, said the band’s publicist Biff Warren. A friend found Sledge on Friday. “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.
The four Philly-based Sledge sisters — Joni, Debbie, Kim and Kathy — formed their band in 1971.They spent eight years struggling in anonymity, a period that prompted deep soul searching. “We were frustrated,” Joni told The Guardian newspaper in an interview last year. “We were saying, ‘Well, maybe we should go to college and just become lawyers or something other than music, because it really is tough.”
But the sibling singers kept at it and catapulted to fame in 1979 after releasing their album “We Are Family.” The record was written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of the group Chic. The high-energy disco jam “The Greatest Dancer” became the sisters’ first hit. But it was “We Are Family” that brought the sisters worldwide acclaim.
The song celebrating sisterhood and female empowerment was nominated for a Grammy and sold more than one million copies, as did the album of the same name. “Recording the track ‘We Are Family’ was like a one-take party,” Joni said in the Guardian interview. “We were just dancing and playing around and hanging out in the studio when we did it.”
Kathy would later leave the group to pursue a solo career in 1989. But the trio of sisters continued to record and tour into the present, including a 2015 performance for Pope Francis. They last performed together in concert in October. The sisters were slated to appear at the Cypress Bayou Casino in Charenton, La. on March 18. Joni Sledge is survived by an adult son, her sisters and other relatives.