R.I.P. Joni Sledge of Sister Sledge

Monday, March 13, 2017
R.I.P. Joni Sledge of Sister Sledge

We’ve lost another member of the Rhino family, but we’re far from the only family to be feeling the loss: Joni Sledge – one of the sisters in Sister Sledge – died on Saturday at age 60.

Joni was the second-born of the Sledge sisters, arriving on September 13, 1956, which placed her after Debbie and before Kim and Kathy. To look at their parents’ background, it’s not hard to see how they ended up in show business: their father, Edwin, was a Broadway tap dancer, and their mother, Florez, was an actress. In addition, the four girls received vocal training by their grandmother, Viola Williams, herself a former lyric soprano opera singer, and the sisters paid tribute to their instructor with the original name for their singing group: Mrs. Williams’ Grandchildren.

Sister Sledge, as the group would soon come to be known, released their first single, “Time Will Tell,” in 1971, but their 1973 single “Mama Never Told Me” gave them a top-20 hit in the UK. Their rise continued with their 1974 single “Love Don’t Go Through No Changes on Me,” which was their first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 (if only at #92) and was a big hit in Japan. By September of that year, they were invited to perform at the Zaire ’74 concert with James Brown, which – as boxing fans know – was tied to the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. But all of these events would pale to the way the group’s profile jumped after signing to Atlantic Records in 1975.

Granted, it was a slow build – 1976 brought a minor R&B hit with “Thank You for Today,” and 1977 brought two further minor hits with “Cream of the Crop” and “Blockbuster Boy” – but in 1979, Sister Sledge took off like a rocket, delivering the iconic chart-toppers “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family.” Other major hits would follow, including “Got to Love Somebody” in 1980, “All American Girls” in ‘81, “My Guy” in ’82, and “B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Baby)” in ’83, and although 1984’s “Lost in Music” wasn’t a hit in the States, it provided Sister Sledge with a top-10 hit on the UK Singles chart. Heck, they even scored another #1 hit in the UK with the 1985 single “Frankie.”

Joni Sledge rarely worked outside of Sister Sledge, but in the late 2000s she released her lone solo album. The appropriately-titled JONI was only available through her website, but you can hear some samples from the album below.

In closing, we offer our condolences to the family as well as the family’s statement on Joni’s passing, which appeared on the official Sister Sledge Facebook page:

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.
The Sledge Family