Joni Sledge, founding member of the group Sister Sledge, most famous
for the black family anthem, “We Are Family,” has died. She was 60
Sledge was found dead in her home by a friend in Phoenix,
Arizona, on Friday. A cause of death has not been determined.
Publicist Biff Warren, who confirmed her death, said Sledge had not been ill.
“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 gorgeous
sisters Debbie, Kim and Kathy formed the Sister Sledge in Philadelphia, in
1971. Their website gives a bit of their incredible music background:
The sisters . . . are daughters of entrepreneur/actress Florez
Sledge and acclaimed Broadway performer Edwin Sledge. Their beloved
grandmother, Viola Beatrix Hairston Williams, was an alumna of the Juilliard
School and of Bethune-Cookman College, where she was a personal protégé of
founder Mary McCloud Bethune. An accomplished lyric-opera soprano in her own
right, Mrs. Williams provided unique vocal training to the siblings early on,
arranging for her granddaughters to perform at church events and community
functions. The quartet, introduced to the world as “Mrs. Williams
Granddaughters,” before long, formed a band and, with Debbie serving as vocal
arranger, Joni as artistic director, and Mom, Florez as manager, Sister Sledge
After years of struggle, the group connected with Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers
of the group Chic. The pair wrote and produced
their album We Are Family, which
spawned the disco hit, “The Greatest Dancer” in 1979.
But their biggest hit would come in June of that year with “We
Are Family,” which was nominated for a Grammy. The trio (sister Kathy left the
group for a solo career in 1989) performed for Pope Francis in 2015 when he visited
According to their Website, the sisters were still on tour,
including performances in Europe this spring.
Sledge is survived by an
adult son and, of course, her sisters.
Joni Sledge, of Sister Sledge, Has Died at 60 – The Root