Joni Sledge, 60, who with her sisters recorded the dance anthem "We Are Family," has died, the band's representative said Saturday. Ms. Sledge was found dead in her Phoenix home Friday by a friend, the band's publicist, Biff Warren, said. A cause of death has not been determined.
"On yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We welcome your prayers as we weep the loss of our sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin," read a family statement.
Ms. Sledge and sisters Debbie, Kim, and Kathy formed Sister Sledge in 1971 in Philadelphia, their hometown, but struggled for years before success came.
"The four of us had been in the music business for eight years and we were frustrated. We were saying: 'Well, maybe we should go to college and just become lawyers or something other than music,' " Ms. Sledge told the Guardian in an interview last year.
But then they met Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of the group Chic, and their breakout soon came. The pair wrote and produced their album We Are Family, and the sisters' "The Greatest Dancer," became a top-10 hit.
But their biggest hit was the title track, an infectious dance anthem that celebrated their familial connection. While it celebrated their sisterhood, the 1979 song also became an anthem for female empowerment and unity. Their signature song was nominated for a Grammy. Both song and album sold more than a million copies.