Sisters, Debbie, Joni, and Kim (sister Kathy stepped away from the ensemble to pursue a solo career 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.
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. 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.
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 musicians, the group’s combined artistry is magical! Their recent 2014 performance headlining at the Tramlines festival in Sheffield, UK was described by The Star paper as being “one of Tramlines greatest ever nights”.
Upcoming releases for Sister Sledge in 2015 will feature the music and initiative “Women Are the Rhythm of the World” (WATROTW). The song, written by talented producer and singer/songwriter Kacey Jones, is a kaleidoscope of exciting international rhythms and will thematically reflect the sisters’ love of international culture. The coinciding artistic and social movement will celebrate the beauty and strength of all women, helping to raise consciousness and empower women and children across the globe. Scheduled 2015 performances and videos will spread the sisters’ humanitarian worldview and raise income and awareness for charitable partnerships worldwide, in the name of the Florez Sledge Foundation, a charity named lovingly after their mom, Flo.
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 (FAMS) who have supported them with love and compassion and have also helped to inspire them creatively, encouraging them to approach each new year with even more enthusiasm, strength and dedication.
In March 2017, Joni Sledge passed away unexpectedly (from complications due to a pre-existing health condition), and her son, sisters, family and fans were left devastated. Joni’s beautiful spirit lives on and is celebrated on and off stage by her loving family. Following such an emotionally challenging year, Sister Sledge’s mantra “Nothing is greater than love” is ever more pertinent. The sisters continue to spread an important message of love, hope and empowerment that will speak to and uplift us all.