Joni Sledge, was found unresponsive this past Saturday (March 11th) at her Phoenix, Arizona home, at the age of 60. Her publicist, Biff Warren, has told CNN that the cause of death is unclear.

Joni, along with her older sister Debbie and young sisters Kim and Kathy, formed the influential R&B/disco group Sister Sledge in 1971. Sister Sledge’s first album, ‘Circle Of Love‘, was released in 1975 to some success in Europe, and their second album, 1977‘s ‘Together‘, garnered minor fanfare in the States. When Atlantic Records connected the sisters with producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards both of the band Chic their 1979 masterpiece ‘We Are Family‘ was born. The lead single from the album, ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer‘, rose to number one on the R&B charts and became a crossover success, but the band was perhaps best known for the second single off that album – the synonymous track ‘We Are Family‘, which earned them another R&B number one and a number two on the pop charts. The song eventually went to gold and was an anthem for a generation, also becoming the theme song for the Pittsburgh Pirates the year it was released. In 2008 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Most recently Joni Sledge revealed that Sister Sledge were to record a song entitled ‘W.A.M.O.W.‘, an acronym for “Woman Are the Music of the World”, also advocating Hillary Clinton a few days before the 2016 US election by saying, “We’re very excited there’s a W.A.M.O.W. running for President of the United States. We support her 100 percent.” In an announcement on Saturday the family of Joni Sledge stated: “Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We are saddened to inform you that our dear sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin, Joni passed away yesterday. Please pray for us as we weep for this loss. We do know that she is now eternally with Our Lord. We thank you in advance for allowing us the privacy to mourn quietly as a family. We miss her and hurt for her presence, her radiance, and the sincerity with which she loved & embraced life. We love you & God Bless You all.” Memorial services are to be announced in the coming week.

Sarah Medeiros