Photo | Sister Sledge
Sister Sledge will provide the soundtrack to Mobile’s New Year’s Eve celebration.
Band: Sister Sledge
Date: Monday, Dec. 31, 11 p.m.
Venue: MoonPie Over Mobile, downtown Mobile
Before our big, electrified MoonPie descends upon the cheering masses to ring in 2019, Sister Sledge will ignite the crowd with a flashback to the disco days of the ‘70s and beyond. Known for hits such as “We Are Family,” “Thinking of You” and “Lost in Music,” Sister Sledge exploded into the mainstream more than 40 years ago with a mix of soulful grooves and angelic harmonies.
Recently, the group’s timeless hit “We Are Family” was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. Last week, Kathy Sledge chatted with Lagniappe about the group’s unforgettable music and New Year’s Eve performances that has their act in demand from London to Dubai.
Stephen Centanni: From Europe to the Middle East, you’ve performed at New Year’s Eve celebrations around the globe. What makes your performances so special that you choose to continue to perform on this holiday?
Kathy Sledge: It’s always different. I’m so looking forward to the MoonPie Over Mobile. I’ve been hearing about it and I’m excited about it. We’ve done some private [parties] that weren’t publicized like the one that we did a few years ago for the Prince of Malaysia in London with Cyndi Lauper. I’m just totally hyped about it.
Centanni: What would you say is your fondest New Year’s Eve memory?
Sledge: I would say 2015 in Dubai with Nile Rodgers and Chaka Khan. That was a lot of fun. The party extended from the audience to the stage.
Centanni: The demand for Sister Sledge on New Year’s Eve also shows that people still love your music. Besides radio spins, TV and movie spots, “We Are Family” has been added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. How does it feel to know that your music is still embraced so much by so many people?
Sledge: The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m thankful. I think adding “We Are Family” to the Library of Congress, more than anything, shows that it has outlived so many things. It’s up in there in the Library of Congress next to Martin Luther King’s speech.
When the song was made, we knew it was special. I sang the song when I was 16 years old. Now, years later, it’s kind of timeless. I see everyone from 2-year-olds to 90-year-olds who know that song. Then, there’s one song called “Thinking of You,” which is one of my favorites. It’s bigger than “We Are Family” in the U.K. The music has been embraced globally, and I’m thankful.
Centanni: You mentioned that you were 16 years old when you recorded “We Are Family.” You started in the business when you were very young. You even received comparisons to Michael Jackson, because you were both so young when you started. That tends to be detrimental to a lot of artists, except you. What kept you grounded?
Sledge: I think in the early days we were always told to never depend on the latest record to perform and to always be an entertainer. I do like to say that I came up in the same school as Michael Jackson and Prince. I think what kept me grounded was traveling with a family. I think I always recognized the balance of knowing to keep your life first and your work second.
Some people, I believe, depend so much on those lights on stage. I think the reality is you always have to come off stage and put that balance first. That’s always been my secret. Also, you have to have gratitude. It’s always a compliment when someone wants to take a picture with you or give you a compliment for your music. You worry when no one listens anymore. I think that keeps you balanced and keeps you humble.
Centanni: You still stay busy. You had that “Bright Side of Day” album, which is your tribute to Billie Holliday. You did some work with the EDM group Aristofreeks out of Ibiza as well. What are you working on these days?
Sledge: I’ve got some really cool things! I just signed a movie deal about the backstory of “Lost in Music” and the “We Are Family” story. Then, my sister has some things that she’s working on with her memoirs. Now, I’m writing in the studio with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson, Prince, Mariah Carey).
What people don’t know about me is that I’ve always been a songwriter. We weren’t allowed to really have music on the “We Are Family” project, because it was pretty much a formula by Nile Rodgers and the late Edwards that they wanted, and I get it, and it totally worked. It never changed my passion for writing. I got a chance to write on other projects with my sisters.
Now, I’m writing with these really cool producers/DJ team out of Europe called Horse Meat Disco. It’s very interesting how they got their name. Then, I’m talking to Stanley Clarke about doing some jazz music. He’s well known in the jazz industry. Where I am now is that I’m doing everything that I want to do.
Sadly enough, I think we all learned when we lost iconic artists like Michael Jackson and Prince. It makes me as an artist stop and think, “I love to write and create, but what are you leaving when you’re not here?”’ It inspired me to produce more live projects and live concerts.
It’s never too late to keep creating. There’s always a time to create. Actually, this Christmas holiday, I produced a Christmas show inspired by Mariah Carey. I love doing shows with a theme to it. Maybe, this year I’ll film it and get it out there on the road and invite other artists. Those are the things that I’m doing. I’m doing what I love.
Centanni: What can Mobile expect from your New Year’s Eve show?
Sledge: You know, there was a recent article that said, “The real deal is coming to town.” You can expect that. This is one of the first shows I’ve done in a long time where I’m getting to be explosive with all the songs we know and love and be creative.
The whole Sister Sledge show is exhilarating. I think my sisters and I were the first ones to be a girl band who were uninhibited. There’s going to be a lot of energy and a lot of fun and a lot of hits, and don’t be surprised if you end up on stage with me.