Joni Sledge, who with her sisters recorded the enduring dance anthem "We Are Family," has died, the band's representative said Saturday. She was 60. Sledge was found dead in her home by a friend in Phoenix on Friday, the band's publicist, Biff Warren, says. A cause of death has not been determined, reports the AP. He says she had not been ill. "Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We welcome your prayers as we weep the loss of our sister, mother, aunt, niece, and cousin," reads a family statement. Sledge and her sisters Debbie, Kim, and Kathy formed Sister Sledge in 1971, but after 8 years with little success, "we were frustrated. We were saying: 'Well, maybe we should go to college and just become lawyers,'" Joni told the Guardian in 2016, noting Kim actually enrolled in law school.
But then they met Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of the hit group Chic, and their breakout soon came. The pair wrote and produced their album We Are Family, and soon the women had their first major hit with disco jam "The Greatest Dancer," which became a top 10 hit in May 1979. (It would sampled years later for Will Smith's hit "Getting Jiggy Wit It.") But their biggest hit would come a month later with the title track, an infectious, Grammy-nominated dance anthem that celebrated their familial connection with the refrain, "We are family, I got all my sisters with me." Both the song and album sold more than one million copies. While sister Kathy left the group for a solo career, the trio of sisters last performed together in concert in October, says Warren. Joni Sledge is survived by an adult son, her sisters, and other relatives. (Read more obituary stories.)