In the history of recorded music, there have been only a handful of musical groups which have managed to transcend time, genre, and culture...and Sister Sledge is indisputably one of these. As the pages of the Chicago Tribune have asserted, Sister Sledge “has the stuff legends are made of.”
The sisters, Debbie, Joni, and Kim (sister Kathy stepped away from the ensemble in 1989), are daughters of entrepreneur/actress Florez Sledge and acclaimed Broadway performer Edwin Sledge. Their beloved 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, Mrs. 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.
As a unique, multi-faceted, multi-lead-vocal group, any one of the sisters could have chosen to pursue a solo career, each being an accomplished vocalist, songwriter, producer and performer. Early on, however, they recognized the mantle of "family" and the strength in unity that would later inspire a generation.
We grew up in a household full of women, where music, theatre, laughter, fantasy and dreams were encouraged. With love and faith at the core, a strong confidence and hope for the future was formed on each of us as we watched our mom Florez face many obstacles as a single parent with humour, a love for people and a zest for life! ~ Debbie Sledge
Performing jazz, soul, gospel, disco, and R&B, flourishing both in-studio and onstage, the sisters built a formidable reputation, dazzling audiences and impressing critics from the start. Along with their busy performance schedules, the ladies also made certain to complete academic studies, each of them earning a Temple University college degree.
The reputation Sister Sledge had begun to forge soon began to transcend national borders with the group achieving enduring popularity in Africa, where they performed at the “Rumble in the Jungle” Ali-Foreman heavyweight-boxing match, in Japan where they won the prestigious Tokyo Music Festival Silver Prize, and across Europe. Finally they made a splash in the U.S. with their first U.S. hit, “Mama Never Told Me,” and shortly after dramatically took off with the blockbuster release of the iconic “We Are Family” album, produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards.
When we had the honour of meeting the iconic Nelson Mandela, he shook my hand and talked about the positive inspiration our song gave South Africa during the end of the apartheid era. All I could think about were the sacrifices he'd made for us all, and that his humility made him seem 10 ft tall. ~ Joni Sledge
Having set the worlds dance floors on fire with “He’s The Greatest Dancer,” the albums next release, the seminal title track, “We Are Family” skyrocketed the group in to the musical stratosphere. Perfectly demonstrating the group’s ability to uplift, inspire and unify, “We Are Family” became the theme song for the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates and was sung live by the sisters at the World Series opening game. The hit songs “Lost in music,” “Thinking of You” and “All American Girls” followed, helping to cement the group’s status as industry front-runners.
Our feet never hit the ground. At one point I can recall working and touring for a full 2 years with only two weeks off, but we found it to be an invaluable experience, invaluable for learning and for perfecting our craft. I wouldn't trade it for the world! ~ Kim Sledge
After remaining at number one for over 4 weeks in the UK with the certified Gold single “Frankie,” Sister Sledge went on to collaborate with Incognito’s Bluey on the song “World Wise and Shine” which shot to number 1 in Italy and resulted in the trio starring in their very own TV show. Joni Sledge produced the group’s 9th studio album, “African Eyes” which was nominated for a Grammy as Best Produced CD and remains one of their finest artistic achievements.
Over the years, the group has amassed a string of Gold and Platinum records, accumulating total sales of over 15,000,000 worldwide. Garnering along the way additional Grammy Nominations for Record of the Year and Best R&B Duo or group, Sister Sledge has earned over 100 awards and commendations. The group has performed on some of the most prestigious stages in six of the planet’s seven continents including Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, The Royal Albert Hall, Japan’s Nakano Sun Plaza, Britain’s renowned Glastonbury Festival, the Burg al Arab in Dubai, the Zenith in Paris, and the State House in Accra, Ghana. They also performed a rousing set at the final White House Christmas Party of the Clinton administration.
Today, Sister Sledge remains in the international spotlight and continues to champion and support the importance and value of family while touring and performing to capacity crowds the world over. With Joni's passionate and sassy vocals and unique creative style, Debbie's wide and agile vocal ranges and a band of exceptionally talented band, the group’s combined artistry is magical! Their 2014 performance headlining at the Tramlines festival in Sheffield, UK was described by The Star paper as being “one of Tramlines greatest ever nights”.
In September of 2015, Sister Sledge were honoured to be invited to perform for Pope Francis at The prestigious world Festival of Families in Philadelphia, PA, along with Andrea Bocelli and Aretha Franklin. Debbie, Joni and Kim soon thereafter launched the brand concept and blog www.nothingisgreaterthanlove.org that will coincide with an empowering new music campaign set to take the world by storm in 2016.
Sister Sledge and their musical family are thankful to God for the many blessings bestowed upon them over the course of their long, illustrious career and are grateful for the many supporters, family members, and friends (FAM) who have helped to inspire them creatively, encouraging them to approach each new year with even more enthusiasm, strength and dedication. With their mantra “Nothing is greater than love,” the sisters continue to spread an important message of love, hope and empowerment that speaks to and uplifts us all!