Joni Sledge was found dead on Friday, and the Sister Sledge singer’s cause of death appears to be a bit of a mystery as she was reportedly in good health leading up to her shocking death.
The 60-year-old singer was found dead in her Phoenix, Arizona, home on Friday, the Associated Press reported. While the report noted that Joni Sledge’s cause of death was not determined, a family statement did note that her passing came as quite a shock.
“Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We are saddened to inform you that our dear sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin, Joni passed away yesterday,” the statement noted. “Please pray for us as we weep for this loss. We do know that she is now eternally with Our Lord… We miss her and hurt for her presence, her radiance, and the sincerity with which she loved & embraced life.”
Joni Sledge was an original member of Sister Sledge, forming in 1971 along with her sisters Debbie, Kim, and Kathy. It would take nearly a decade for the group to find their breakthrough hit, “We Are Family.” As the Associated Press noted, it was a disco-era hit that stood the test of time.
“While it celebrated their sisterhood, the 1979 hit so also became an anthem for female empowerment and unity. It would become their signature hit, and was nominated for a Grammy. Both the song and album sold more than one million copies.”
Though their best-known song was a mainstay of the disco era, Sister Sledge had its roots in social activism and Joni Sledge was one of the driving forces. In a 2015 interview with District Magazine, Debbie noted that her messages resonated even outside the United States.
“Performing in six of the worlds seven continents is something to be truly thankful for. In Sicily, in a public piazza, we performed our song ‘Brother Brother Stop,’ a song Joni wrote in protest against gang violence,” Debbie recalled. “At the end of the song people began lifting their children up above the crowd as a sign of unity. It was a deeply moving experience that we’ll never forget. So many significant memories are of when we’ve connected with people in a life changing way. We have sisters and brothers all over the world.”
But Sister Sledge almost never made it to this point. The Philadelphia group toiled for years before hitting it big, and Joni Sledge recalled that they almost gave up just before finally scoring their big hit.
“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, because it really is tough,'” Joni told The Guardian in an interview last year.
As the news of her passing spread, many from across the music world came forward to pay tribute to Joni Sledge and offer condolences to her surviving family members. Many others sought out information on Sledge’s cause of death, with a mystery around how the healthy and vibrant 60-year-old could die so suddenly.
Reports did not include information on how Joni Sledge died or exactly how her body was found.
Reports seemed to indicate that Joni Sledge died of natural causes, but there were no further details available. It is not clear if or when an autopsy might be conducted.
[Featured Image by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images]