By Hayden Wright
Joni Sledge, who sang “We Are Family” as a member of Sister Sledge, was found dead in her Phoenix, AZ home on Friday. The New York Times reports that no cause of death has been reported.
Sledge rose to fame alongside her sisters for that familiar chorus: “We are family /I got all my sisters with me.” The four Sledge sisters’ enduring disco hit has been extensively licensed and remembered since it debuted in 1979 on the We Are Family album. Sister Sledge was Nile Rodgers’ first production credit outside his work with Chic, and the sisters’ family values approach to disco set them apart for the time.
Joni (born in 1956) was the second-youngest of the foursome and went on to record her own solo material later in life. The Times reports that a family rift estranged the sisters from performing together as recently as 2015, when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia. At the time, Joni cited a “familial dispute that has long been developing between the sisters.”
Surviving members of Sister Sledge issued a statement through their official Facebook page:
“Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family,” they said. “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,” the statement concluded.