Pride Single Stories: Sister Sledge, “We Are Family”
It’s Pride Month, an annual event which began as a way to memorialize the Stonewall Riots of 1969, but has evolved into an opportunity for a monthlong celebration of the world's LGBT communities and their freedom to be themselves. Here at Rhino, we’re using the month to celebrate some key songs which can regularly be heard during such celebrations, and today we’re spotlighting a song by some sisters by the last name of Sledge, one in which they sang about the bond of family...but, hey, it works for communities, too!
When Sister Sledge were teamed by Atlantic Records with the production duo of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the process of collaborating together wasn’t initially an easy one, but once the group and the producers found their groove, so did the music they were making together. “We Are Family” was the first song that Rodgers and Edwards had written for any group other than their own (Chic), with Rodgers reportedly writing the verses virtually verbatim from how Atlantic Records president had described Sister Sledge to him.
Apparently, the description was relatively detailed: “We Are Family” came together quickly after that, with lead singer Kathy Sledge recording the lead vocals in a single take, and the song climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R&B Singles chart.
When Joni Sledge died in 2017, the website TheOutFront.com opened their obit of the singer by saying, “Every gay man who’s ever been on a dance floor or attended a Pride Parade knows the words to ‘We are Family.’ In fact, it’s practically required for getting one’s ‘official’ Gay Card.” Before her death, however, Joni did an interview with TheGAVoice.com, and when she was asked how it made her feel that the song had become an anthem for the gay community, she gave a truly great answer.
“I asked a reporter once why the (LGBT) community embraced us so much,” said Joni. “I mean, we really get loved on by them. The reporter responded that a lot of times, (LGBT) people are ostracized by their own family members. They see us loving each other and singing about family and they feel like we’re their sisters and that this is a family. And it is. We just say to them, ‘Thank you for sharing your love and accepting and embracing us, too.’ We should all just love and embrace each other.”
Amen, Sister Sledge.
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