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In my case, being the youngest sister and singing most of the lead, I sometimes felt the repercussions of that.  You feel guilty, and you feel responsible for other people.  You feel it a little more when it’s your family.”    Kathy Sledge, former lead vocalist, “Sister Sledge.”                             

 “We are family, I got all me sisters with me.  We are family, get up everybody and sing…”

In 1979, the R&B/pop group Sister Sledge, composed of sisters and Philadelphia natives Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy Sledge, struck pay dirt with the song “We are Family.”  The mega dance tune was a No.1 R&B hit in the United States. The song, which became an international anthem for family love and harmony, was also a Top 20 hit in such countries as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, and Belgium.!

The Grammy Award-nominated group would go on to chart other hits such as “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” “All American Girls,” “Love Don’t  You Go Through No Changes on Me,” “Got to Love Somebody,” “Frankie,” “My Guy,” and more. Kathy, the youngest of the Sledge sisters, sang lead on many of the group’s hits.  She left in 1989 to become a solo artist, while her three sisters continued to perform as Sister Sledge.

“It’s common knowledge that I don’t perform with my sisters anymore,” Sledge told EURweb’s Lee Bailey recently. “However, I would like to say that I’m not fighting with my sisters. If anything, I do want to take part in the legendary brand that I helped build. As it stands now, they have an inside company rule that I’m not allowed to say that I’m from, or, I’m of, ‘Sister Sledge.’  But, at the end of the day, nothing can ever change that I was a part of ‘Sister Sledge.”

 “Everyone can see we’re together as we walk on by…Hey and we fly just like birds of a feather…   I won’t tell no lie…”

Kathy is currently celebrating her 27th year as a solo artist. Earlier this year, she charted “Keep it Movin’”, a single which reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Dance Club Music Chart. The song is a collaboration with the Aristofreeks (International DJs and Electronic Dance Music producers Max Martire and Shanti Matkin).  Sledge, Martire and Matkin are planning to release a full album by the end of the year.

Kathy is also busy producing a show that she created called and stars in called, Brighter Side of Day.  The production, as Sledge likes to call it, pays tribute to the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday and has received raved reviews.

Additionally, Kathy has created a show called, Kathy Sledge Presents My Sisters and Me. No, the show is not a reunion of the four Sledge sisters. Instead, when Kathy sings the lyrics, “We are Family…I have all my sisters with me…” there’s a new meaning to what sisters are on stage. Joining Sledge are female vocal stars Deniece Williams, CeCe Peniston and Karyn White.

“I love performing with these sisters on stage,” she said. “One of the challenges that I had with my own sisters was it got to a place where they told me I couldn’t be the lead singer anymore. It got to a place where I decided to collect some of the most amazing female artists that I knew to perform with.”

 “(All) all of the people around us… they say can they be that close…”

So how close are Sister Sledge and Kathy Sledge these days?

When Pope Francis visited the United States last year, Philadelphia was one of his stops. When Sister Sledge was asked to perform “We are Family” for the Pope, the group (Debbie, Joni and Kim) agreed to sing but Kathy didn’t perform with her sisters.

Billboard magazine reported at the time that a press release distributed on Kathy Sledge’s behalf read, “Although the performance is being promoted as though all four original members of the group will be in concert, sisters Joni, Debbie and Kim have refused to allow youngest sibling Kathy, original member and iconic voice of ‘Sister Sledge’ to participate in the performance…”

 “Just let me state for the record, we’re giving love in a family dose

Just for the record, several years ago Sister Sledge, LLC (Debbie, Joni and Kim) gave Kathy a family dose of a stinging legal ruling, via a trademark infringement lawsuit for $200,000. The lawsuit was settled for but the litigation made it clear that the three sisters owned the US trademark for Sister Sledge. Thus, Kathy could no longer book tour dates as Sister Sledge, featuring Kathy Sledge or claim she is the only remaining member of the group.

“Living life is fun and we’ve just begun to get our share of the world’s delights.  (High) high hopes we have for the future and our goal’s in sight…”

With such a storied recording career by Sister Sledge, it’s only natural for fans to hope a reunion is in sight.  According to a United States District Court document filed three years ago, Sister Sledge has extended invitations to Kathy to rejoin and perform with the group. Such overtures, according to the court document, have been rebuffed by Kathy.

Therefore, for now, Debbie, Joni and Kim continue to tour internationally as Sister Sledge, and Kathy tours internationally as a solo artist, who is now an EDM diva.

“At the end of the day, it goes without saying that I love my sisters,” said Kathy, who is not sure if there will ever be a reunion. “Everyone has some madness in his or her family. Our madness happens to be under a magnifying glass. We have our differences. Of course, it (the business) overlaps to it being personal. But, at the end of the day, we will always be family. I would like to think in our case, we’re coming to a healing.”

“Adversity is supposed to propel you to become what you are supposed to be and where you are supposed to go. That’s what adversity has done for me. So I want to see where this takes me. God takes you through some places to get to better places. That’s how I feel.”

“(We) no we don’t get depressed. Here’s what we call our golden rule.  Have faith in you and the things you do. You won’t go wrong, oh-no, this is our family jewel.

PHOTO: YouTube screenshot

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13 thoughts on “A Family Divided: What Happened To Sister Sledge?

  1. Gloria on said:

    So sad to hear about your sister Kathy, I remember
    talking with her during our camping trip, years ago.
    I will keep you in my prayers. You’re a special person with a happy smile and big heart

  2. My prayer is for the girls together to mourn the loss of their sister & put all that “business” & animosity behind them. Family out ranks business. Look at what happened to the Jacksons. Perhaps the sisters thought Kathy was going to leave them, make more money & toss them aside like some felt Michael did for his siblings? Hmmm.

  3. angietangie on said:

    RIP Joni! We love you and Sister Sledge. We are having a family reunion and myself and my 6 sisters will dance and sing to We Are Family. We will dedicate it to Joni as well as the group. Y’all are so appreciated.

  4. In “We are Family” I always think of the Pittsburg Pirates and Dave Parker when they won the World Series back in the 1970’s. I think the song was turned into an anthem for the Pirates. Those were some fun times back in the City of Brotherly Love with Sister Sledge singing their hearts out.

  5. Toni H Steward on said:

    My heart goes out to this family. They showed so much love and togetherness when they preformed. Sadly despite all their hits and notoriety, this.morning on the news her death only received less than 30 seconds of reporting.

  6. Anthony Evans on said:

    I was 13 when “Family” hit. They were a huge part of my childhood. I grieve for them especially now that Joni has past. Come together!!

  7. Antonio on said:

    Really sad to hear this. I actually danced on stage once with the sisters when I was a teen and met them after the concert. All four very very beautiful and nice. The irony is crazy. This should be an Unsung episode.

    • astith on said:

      I so agree with you on all points. This is so sad. I once read a similar situation with the Tavares. One of the brothers stated that after fame came division. I was playing Sister Sledge not too long ago on the way to work. I’m hoping for an Unsung as well – on both groups.

      • Angela on said:

        It is so sad to hear that fame, money, and power tore the sisters apart, but that is a Unsung, I would really like to see. RIH Joni Sledge

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