Bill Warren, a representative for Joni Sledge of the group Sister Sledge announced on Saturday that the singer has died. She was 60. Sledge rose to fame, along with her sisters in the 1970’s with the dance anthem “We Are Family.” The hit single has endured decades of popularity by becoming somewhat of an infectious theme song at family reunions, particularly in African-American culture. Reportedly, the singer had not been ill and was found dead by a friend in her home in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday. Her sisters, mother, aunt, cousin and niece released a statement expressing their numbness and welcoming prayers as they weep at the loss of their family member.

Joni and her sisters Kathy, Debbie and Kim formed Sister Sledge in their native home of Philadelphia in 1971 but success did not come instantly. In fact, after eight years of struggling, they contemplated giving up and going to college to seek careers other than music. But as fate would have it, they eventually crossed paths with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the hit disco era group Chic. The two men wrote and produced Sister Sledge’s breakout album “We Are Family.”

Patience and perseverance resulted in smash hits

The sisters’ first major hit from the album was “The Greatest Dancer” which ranked as a top 10 hit in May 1979. Years later, Will Smith sampled it for his smash hit “Getting Jiggy Wit It.” But Sister Sledge’s biggest claim to fame, the title track, would come one month after their first song topped the charts.

Though their Grammy-nominated signature song celebrated their sisterhood, it quickly became an anthem for family reunions and female empowerment.

Another star from an era of music icons gone

The vocal group’s success in making hit songs was short-lived. Their cover of Mary Wells’ “My Guy” in 1982 was the last song to do well.

Kathy left the group in pursuit of a solo career and the remaining trio, who last sang in concert in October, were seen performing for Pope Francis during his visit to Philadelphia in 2015. Joni and her sisters had plans for performances in Europe. Along with her sisters and other relatives, Joni Sledge is survived by an adult son.

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