Joni Sledge, a member of the famed pop sibling quartet Sister Sledge, has died, a representative for the band said Saturday. She was 60.
Sledge died at her Phoenix home Friday afternoon, the rep said. Her cause of death has not been disclosed.
“Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family,” said a statement issued by her family. “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.”
Sister Sledge formed in 1971 and went on to record such hits as “We Are Family,” “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and “Frankie.”
Joni was the second-oldest of sisters Debbie, Kim and Kathy, who are daughters of entrepreneur/actress Florez Sledge and acclaimed Broadway performer Edwin Sledge.
Their grandmother, Viola Beatrix Hairston Williams, was an alumna of the Juilliard School and of Bethune-Cookman College, where she was a personal protégé of founder Mary McCloud Bethune.
An accomplished lyric-opera soprano in her own right, Williams provided unique vocal training to the siblings early on, arranging for her granddaughters to perform at church events and community functions.
The quartet, introduced to the world as “Mrs. Williams’ granddaughters,” before long formed a band and, with Debbie serving as vocal arranger, Joni as artistic director and mom Florez as manager, Sister Sledge was born.
The Grammy-nominated “We Are Family,” released in 1979, peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100. The song also topped the R&B and disco charts and was a rallying cry for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates team that won the World Series.
The album of the same name reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200.
“Recording the track ‘We Are Family’ was like a one-take party — we were just dancing and playing around and hanging out in the studio when we did it,” Sledge once recalled in an interview with the Guardian.
She is survived by her son, Thaddeus, and sisters Debbie, Kim and Kathy.