According to Rolling Stone, singer Joni Sledge—a founding member of R&B vocal group Sister Sledge—has died. Her death apparently came as a shock to her family, with a publicist saying that she “had not been ill” and that the cause of death is currently unknown. Sledge was 60 years old.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the Sledge family said, “We are saddened to inform you that our dear sister, mother, aunt, niece, and cousin Joni passed away yesterday,” adding, “We miss her and hurt for her presence, her radiance, and the sincerity with which she loved and embraced life.”
Along with her sisters Debbie, Kim, and Kathy, Joni helped form the group Sister Sledge in the early ‘70s. The daughters of a Broadway tap dancer and an actress, the Sledge sisters were musically trained at a young age by their grandmother, opera singer Viola Williams. As Sister Sledge, they released two albums that failed to make much of a splash, but their third—We Are Family—became a smash hit thanks to its title track. “We Are Family” was written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, and it hit Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. Other singles “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “Lost In Music” (which were also written by Rodgers and Edwards) also became hits.
Kathy Sledge left the group to pursue a solo career in 1989, leaving the other three—including Joni—to continue Sister Sledge as a trio. The group has continued performing since then, with Joni Sledge announcing new music and pledging the band’s support for Hillary Clinton late last year.