On March 10, we lost Joni Sledge and remember her with the flip side of the vocal quartet’s biggest hit.
By Warren Kurtz
Flip side: Easier to Love
A side: We Are Family
Top 100 debut: April 28, 1979
Peak position: 2
Joni Sledge photo courtesy of Sister Sledge
In March of 1979, Sister Sledge had a breakthrough Top 10 hit single with “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” a light disco dance number. While this song was still in the Top 40, their next single was released, “We Are Family.” This lively record had a simple theme of, “We are family. I’ve got all my sisters with me.” That was true. The Philadelphia vocal quartet was comprised of all four Sledge sisters, Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy. The record spent two weeks in the number two spot and went gold. The song become an anthem for sisterhood and women’s groups.
The flip side of the “We Are Family” single, also from the “We Are Family” album, along with “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” was “Easier to Love.” Musicians from Chic were on the entire album, recorded at the Power Station in New York City. Alex Foster was featured on this song with flute, versus his usual alto saxophone. There was a full orchestral arrangement and the music swayed. Joni Sledge sang lead on Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards composition which offered a message of love and togetherness. Like Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” at the beginning of the decade, this number was a gentle reminder, in tender couplets, that there were still issues to resolve. Joni Sledge asked, “Won’t someone please explain, why all the hurt and the pain?” There was a reflection on the innocence of youth, “All this beautiful land, see the children playing in the sand.” These questions built to an urban plea, “All this killing each other, you should be loving your brother.”
In early 1982, Sister Sledge appeared in the Top 40 for a final time with their remake of Mary Wells’ “My Guy.” In 1989, Kathy Sledge left the quartet for a solo career. Joni Sledge performed with her sisters Debbie and Kim until her unexpected death. Debbie and Kim Sledge continue to tour as Sister Sledge.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, around 9:05-9:25 a.m. Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”