Passings: Joni Sledge of Sister Sledge (1956 - 2017)
Joni Sledge, one of four sisters who made up Sister Sledge, has died at the age of 60. She was found unresponsive at her home. No cause of death has been announced.
The family released a statement on social media:
Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We are saddened to inform you that our dear sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin, Joni passed away yesterday. Please pray for us as we weep for this loss. We do know that she is now eternally with Our Lord.
We thank you in advance for allowing us the privacy to mourn quietly as a family. We miss her and hurt for her presence, her radiance, and the sincerity with which she loved & embraced life.
We love you & God Bless You all.
The Sledge Family
Joni Sledge was the second child of Broadway tap dancer Edwin Sledge and actress Florez Sledge. She and her three sisters, Debbie (born 1954), Kim (1957) and Kathy (1959), learned to sing from their grandmother, Viola Williams, who was a lyric soprano opera singer. They originally performed at their church and as "Mrs. Williams' Grandchildren" before branching out in the late 60's to perform along the east coast with their mother as their manager.
In 1971, the sisters released their first single, Time Will Tell, on the Money Back label. Two more singles came out before they first charted with Love Don't You Go Through No Changes on Me (1974 / #92 Pop / #31 R&B / #5 Dance). They followed the next year with the number 7 Dance hit Protect Our Love / Pain Reliever and a U.K. top twenty hit with their 1973 single Mama Never Told Me but they would have little luck with future releases until 1979.
It was at that time that their label, Atco, had them work with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic who produced their album We Are Family, their first to hit the Billboard 200, going all the way to number 3 and number 1 on the R&B Albums. The album included the group's biggest hits, He's the Greatest Dancer (1979 / #9 Pop / #1 R&B) and We Are Family (1979 / #2 Pop / #1 R&B).
Rodgers and Edwards also produced their followup, Love Somebody Today (1980 / #31 / #7 R&B), which included Got to Love Somebody (1979 / #64 Pop / #6 R&B) but, for their fifth album, they brought in Narda Michael Waldren to change their sound with the fall of disco. All American Girls (1981 / #42 / #13 R&B) had one major hit, the title track, which peaked at number 3 on the R&B singles.
While the group's star started to falter in the U.S., they hit a brand new high in the U.K. with two singles, Lost in the Music (1984 / #4 U.K.) and the chart topping Frankie (1985 / #1 U.K.). Their final major hit, once again in the U.K., came in 1993 when a remix of We Are Family by Sure is Pure reached number 5.
By the time of the remix hit, Kathy had left the group and Debbi, Joni and Kim continued with Joni taking a more central role, writing the song Brother, Brother Stop after she witnessed a shooting and taking on producing duties on the now trio's 1997 album African Eyes for which she was nominated for a Grammy.
The three sisters pursued both solo careers and continued to work together in the 2000's even though Kim took some time off to become an ordained minister.
Joni Sledge is survived by her son and three sisters.