Sister Sledge

Sister Sledge singer Joni Sledge dies, aged 60

Joni Sledge, one of the four siblings who made up Sister Sledge, has died at the age of 60.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Sledge family announced: “Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We are saddened to inform you that our dear sister, mother, aunt and cousin, Joni passed away yesterday.” It is understood Sledge was found unresponsive at home; no cause of death has yet been announced.

Born in 1956, Joni formed Sister Sledge in 1971 with older sister Debbie and younger sisters Kim and Kathy. Their UK breakthrough came in 1975 with the top twenty hit Mama Never Told Me, but it is for their 1979 album We Are Family that the group is best known. Produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, it spawned three hit singles at the time: He’s the Greatest Dancer, Lost in Music and the title track. The sisters failed to live up to the album’s success in the early ’80s as their next four albums all failed to chart, but the release of another We Are Family track Thinking of You as a single in 1984 returned them to the top twenty. It also propelled the parent album into the top ten for the first time and inspired remixes of Lost in Music and We Are Family, both of which became hits again.

Unexpectedly, their biggest UK hit came the following year with the release of Frankie, a jaunty pop number in marked contrast to their usual disco style. Supposedly written about Frank Sinatra, it caught the imagination of the British public at the height of Frankie Goes To Hollywood mania and spent four weeks at number 1 in the summer of 1985, although it barely registered on the US charts. It also marked the end of their hit career in the UK, their only subsequent top forty hits being further 1993 remixes of hits from the We Are Family album. Nevertheless, the sisters continued to perform together, including a performance at the White House for Bill and Hilary Clinton in 2000 and a set on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2005.