Joni Sledge, who with her sisters founded R&B group Sister Sledge, has died at the age of 60.
According to the band’s publicist, Biff Warren, Sledge was found dead in her Arizona home by a friend on March 10. She had not been ill and the cause of death has not been determined.
The singer’s death came as a shock to her friends and family.
“Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family,” Sister Sledge wrote in a statement posted to Facebook. “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 [and] embraced life.”
Sister Sledge — formed by Sledge and her three sisters in 1971 — is best known for the 1979 dance hit “We Are Family,” which was written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic.
In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, Sledge explained that she and her sisters were thinking about calling it quits when they met Edwards and Rodgers.
“We’d had a couple of hits in 1974, 1975 … but by the time we met Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, the four of us had been in the music business for eight years and we were frustrated,” she said. “We were saying, ‘Well, maybe we should go to college and just become lawyers or something other than music, because it really is tough.’ My sister Kim actually started law school.”
“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,” she added.
The song went on to peak at No. 2 on the Hot 100 and reached the top of the R&B and disco charts, according to Billboard. It was later nominated for a Grammy Award.
Other hits included “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “My Guy.”
Sister Sledge was still touring. The band performed for Pope Francis in 2015 and was slated to play a concert in Louisiana on March 18.
Sledge is survived by her adult son, Thaddeus, and her three sisters, Debbie, Kim and Kathy.