Sister Sledge

  • R&B and disco vocal group formed in 1971 from Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The group consisted of sisters Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy Sledge.
  • The Sledge sisters were the daughters of parents who were performers. They were given vocal training by their grandmother, who was a former opera singer. They sang at their church, and then started to sing at charity and political events in Philadelphia. By 1971, the girls ranged in age from 16 to 12 years old, and they were performing in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, with Mom acting as manager and tour bus driver.
  • A local record label signed them, and they released their debut single, Time Will Tell, calling themselves Sisters Sledge. In 1973, 2 more singles were recorded, with Mama Never Told Me charting in the UK. The following year, now with a national record label, they charted in the U.S. for the first time, with Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me – it reached #31 on the R&B chart. It was a bigger hit in Japan, and they flew to Japan to perform at the Tokyo Music Festival, taking the Silver Prize. They also performed in Zaire Africa at a concert organized for the George Foreman/Muhammad Ali “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match.
  • Their success led to the release of their debut studio album in early 1975, Circle of Love. It included Love Don’t You Go and several other songs that were popular at dance clubs. Kathy handled lead vocals on the album – youngest of the sisters, she was 15 years old. The group performed on the R&B television show Soul Train in April that year – their first of 3 appearances on the show.
  • A second album, titled Together, was released in 1977. It had a minor hit with Blockbuster Boy. Still hoping for a breakthrough, their record label connected them with producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who were members of the disco/funk band Chic. Overcoming some early challenges, they collaborated and their breakthrough album We Are Family was released in 1979. The album peaked at #1 on the R&B album chart and at #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and was certified platinum. The first single from the album, He’s The Greatest Dancer, reached #9 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B singles chart. It was followed by their signature song, We Are Family, which reached #2 on the Hot 100. Its popularity was fueled by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who adopted the song on their drive to winning the World Series that year. In 2017, the Library of Congress selected the song for inclusion into the National Recording Registry.
  • Sister Sledge released 5 albums between 1980 and 1985. They only managed a few songs that charted on the Hot 100 – a cover of Smokey Robinson’s My Guy reached #23 in 1982, but nothing else cracked the top 40. A couple of songs performed well on the R&B chart – Got to Love Somebody and All American Girls each were top 10 on that chart. They had greater success in Europe – Frankie topped the UK and Ireland charts in 1985, and Lost in Music was top 5 in both countries.
  • In 1989, Kathy left the group to begin a solo career, and she still occasionally performed with her sisters. Sister Sledge released studio albums in 1997 and 2003. They performed for the Clintons at the White House in 2000, and for Pope Francis in 2015. In 2012, Tanya Tiet was added to the group. In 2017, Joni died of natural causes at the age of 60. Debbie, Kim and Tanya Tiet continue to perform as Sister Sledge – their 2020 performances include a concert on “The Ultimate Disco Cruise” and shows in Atlantic City, Indonesia, the UK and Switzerland.
  • While Sister Sledge was not the most prolific disco artist, We Are Family makes most lists as one of the greatest disco songs of all time. C’mon – you know you love disco! Here’s the video – “Get up everybody, sing!”

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