Joni Sledge, who belonged to the four-sister disco-era group Sister Sledge, best known for its No. 1 hit “We Are Family,” died Friday at her home in Phoenix, a spokeswoman for the group announced. She was 60.
No cause of death has been announced.
“Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family,” said the Sledges in a statement Saturday. “Pray for us as we weep for the loss of our sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin Joni Sledge. We thank you for privacy as we hurt for her presence, but also for embracing her radiance and the sincerity with which she loved life.”
Joni Sledge was born Sept. 13, 1956, to tap dancer Edwin Sledge and actress Florez Sledge. She was the second eldest of the four sisters who formed their group in Philadelphia in 1971, working first as backup singers and then stars in their own right after they connected with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the leaders of the disco group Chic.
Rodgers and Edwards wrote and produced the sisters’ 1979 album, “We Are Family,” which included the title song and another No. 1 smash, “He’s the Greatest Dancer.” Joni Sledge sang lead on “Lost in Music,” another hit on the album.
Edwards and Rodgers in 1980 also wrote and produced the group’s second album, 1980’s “Love Somebody Today,” which contained another Top 10 hit, “Got to Love Somebody.”
The group’s last Top 10 entry was “All American Girls” in 1981.
“We Are Family” has continued to be an R&B staple decades after its departure from the charts. Armed with an insistent rhythm and catchy chorus (“We are family/I’ve got all my sisters with me”), the song became an anthem of family togetherness, as well as a rallying cry for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979 during the team’s season -capping World Series triumph that year.
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