SISTER SLEDGE: JOAN SLEDGE
These queens of the disco era were "family."
On September 13, 1952, was born Joan 'Joni" Sledge of the Philadelphia family group of disco queens, Sister Sledge.
Joni is one of the original members of Philadelphia's girl group quartet, Sister Sledge of perenniel "We Are Family" fame, Joni was the lead singer on the group's singles "Lost in Music" (1979) and "Reach Your Peak" (1980) and continues to tour occasionally with her sisters. Late 2008, the singer released her first solo outing Joni via her official website, featuring a mixture of old school R&B, both uptempo and mellow, with some jazz influences. The set includes an Obama-tribute of "We Are Family" as well as new versions of lesser-known latter-day Sledge recordings "World Rise and Shine" and "Cry for Soweto".
Best known for their work with Chic in the late '70s, siblings Debbie, Kim, Joni, and Kathy Sledge -- collectively Sister Sledge -- reached the height of their popularity during the disco era but had been recording since the early '70s and were still active in the late '90s. The group was formed in Philadelphia in 1971, when the sisters' ages ranged from 12 to 16, and they recorded their first single, "Time Will Tell," for the Philly-based Money Back label. (For the first few years, the group called itself Sisters Sledge.) In 1972, Sister Sledge signed with Atco and recorded its second single, "Weatherman," which was followed by the Jackson 5-like "Mama Never Told Me" in 1973.
Sister Sledge's first national hit came in 1974, when "Love, Don't You Go Through No Changes on Me" reached number 31 on the R&B charts and the Philadelphians recorded their debut album, Circle of Love. Their second album, Together, was released in 1977 and contained the number 61 R&B hit "Blockbuster Boy." It wasn't until 1979, when Chic leaders Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards produced We Are Family, that Sister Sledge really exploded commercially. "He's the Greatest Dancer" and We Are Family's title song both soared to number one on the R&B charts, and the latter (a number two pop smash) was adopted as a theme by the World Series-winning Pittsburgh Pirates.
Sister Sledge's next album, Love Somebody Today (1980), was also produced by the Rodgers/Edwards team, and the single "Got to Love Somebody" became a number six R&B hit. In 1981, Sister Sledge switched producers and worked with Narada Michael Walden, who produced 1981's excellent All American Girls. The title song was a number three R&B hit, and in 1982, Sister Sledge had a number 14 R&B hit with a cover of Mary Wells' "My Guy" that appeared on The Sisters. But after that, the foursome's popularity faded, and it never had another Top 20 hit in the U.S. -- although 1985's "Frankie" (a number 32 R&B hit in the States) became a pop number one hit in England. Sister Sledge left Atlantic for good in 1985, but its members kept busy in the 1990s. Epic released Kathy's debut solo album, Heart, in 1992, and 1997 found the sisters recording a risk-taking date, African Eyes, arguably one of the finest albums they ever recorded.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
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