Skip to main content

Enter your email below to be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Please enter a valid email address
Please accept the terms
Best Sister Sledge Songs: 10 Floor-Filling Disco Classics
List & Guides

Best Sister Sledge Songs: 10 Floor-Filling Disco Classics

Often the result of collaboration with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwads, the best Sister Sledge songs shaped the sound of disco into the 80s.

Back

The four Sledge sisters – Debbie, Joni, Kathy and Kim – were born and raised in Philadelphia. “It is the root of where everything started,” Debbie said in 2023. “I grew up in a very musical family, plus we all had an energy that was so unique. Despite having aunts, uncles, grandparents who all performed – some professionally – the most formative thing is that we sang for fun.” As the best Sister Sledge songs prove, this tight-knit shared history translated into some of disco’s most enduring classics.

“It was a really cool community that we grew up in,” Joni said, speaking of Philadelphia itself. “It wasn’t a very wealthy area but we had a lot of fun hanging in the streets. And that’s where we learned to sing.” The Sledge sisters found joy in singing, expressing bliss through their voices and treasuring the sensation of joining together as a family unit.

Although there are brilliant tracks to be found in their earlier releases, Sister Sledge’s classic period starts in 1979, with the release of the album We Are Family and the beginning of their working relationship with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic. Rodgers and Edwards were at the apex of their career, and the sisters sometimes found the older, self-assured producers intimidating.

“In the studio with Nile and Bernard, it was a really big challenge. First of all, they were so talented. I call them geniuses,” Kim has said. “But there was a lot of learning what it’s like to work with producers, who saw things a certain way.” The Sledge sisters valued discipline and preparation; the Chic duo favoured spontaneity. While the four siblings loved harmony singing, Edwards and Rodgers liked the sound of unity. But, as all parties worked through their approach, magic was created. The sisters’ ability to bring their own personalities to those Chic-produced records are a very big part of what defines the best Sister Sledge tracks today.

Joni Sledge passed away in 2017. Debbie and Kim have continuously sung in the group since its formation, and Kathy has rejoined her sisters at various points, while also pursuing a solo career. “I remember saying, back then, wow this is such a blessing,” Kathy reflected in 2021. “We set the pace for the Spice Girls and TLC and En Vogue.”

Listen to the best of Sister Sledge here, and check out our best Sister Sledge songs, below.

10: Frankie (from ‘When The Boys Meet The Girls’, 1985)

This playful track is markedly softer than the cutting-edge disco-funk that characterises many of the best Sister Sledge songs. Its nostalgic feel nevertheless sits very squarely in the mid-80s alongside other affectionate girl-group pastiches of the time, such as Madonna’s hit 1986 single True Blue. Frankie proved particularly popular in the UK, where it spent five weeks at No.1.

However – and probably because it was so far removed from Sister Sledge’s earlier, cooler material – both the group and their producer at the time, Nile Rodgers, were initially ambivalent about recording Frankie. Debbie remembers no one being “crazy” about the song when it was first presented to them, but she said that Nile then “couldn’t get it out of his head. He did a tremendous job with it, because it was certainly different from what he [first] heard. It’s great, it’s always fun performing that song.”

9: Il Mácquillage Lady (from ‘The Sisters’, 1982)

Il Mácquillage Lady has a fabulous last-days-of-Studio-54 feel, and is a sleeping gem from Sister Sledge’s 1982 album, The Sisters. It draws equally from disco’s earliest days – notably Labelle’s seminal 1974 hit, Lady Marmalade – and the genre’s more recent sounds, with its very 1982 saxophone-heavy style of pop.

The song was written by Joni Sledge, a phenomenally talented composer and lyricist. Following her death, in 2017, tracks such as Il Mácquillage Lady are her rich legacy. The surviving Sledge sisters have spoken movingly about Joni’s deep sensitivity, reflecting on how this infused her vocals and lyrics. “Even when Joni was little, she hated watching TV if someone was being hurt, as she would sit weeping,” Kim said in 2017, just after Joni’s passing. “When we would ask what she was crying about she would reply, ‘Did you see what happened?’”

8: All American Girls (from ‘All American Girls’, 1981)

From the album of the same name, All American Girls found Sister Sledge changing producers. Pausing their relationship with Rodgers and Edwards, they recruited Narada Michael Walden. Walden gained his stripes in jazz fusion, was then mentored by Quincy Jones, and became a superstar R&B producer in the 80s and 90s. Sister Sledge was only his second production job. His openness to sharing production credit with the group was important to them. “They didn’t want to go with a producer that would not allow them any input,” Walden said in 1980, when the collaboration was announced.

One of the best Sister Sledge songs of the era, All American Girls subtly moves the group away from disco, bringing in more synths, R&B, and early-80s funk. The track, too, is a political statement about the overdue recognition of Black women’s hard work in the face of discrimination. “Give us an equal share,” the sisters sing. “That’s just fair.”

7: You Fooled Around (from ‘Love Somebody Today’, 1980)

You Fooled Around, originally an album track on 1980’s Love Somebody Today, was written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. It was part of the pair’s annus mirabilius as producers, as 1980 also saw the release of Diana Ross’ Diana, Sheila And B Devotion’s King Of The World and Chic’s own Real People. “They seemed like big brothers, extremely cocky!” Joni said, with affection, of the Chic duo. “Nile was one of the baddest guitar players in the world. He has a rhythm that comes from his soul.”

The sales of Love Somebody Today were more modest than those of the record that preceded it, the gigantic We Are Family. Debbie Sledge has said that this has meant the album remains underrated to this day. “It was a great album with great production, and we had so much fun producing that,” she said in 2017, “but I don’t believe that it got the same backing as [We Are Family].”

6: Brand New Generation (single B-side, 1971)

The B-side of Sister Sledge’s very first single, Brand New Generation is a great DIY funk dancer among the best Sister Sledge songs. Credited to “Sisters’ Sledge”, it was released on local small label Money Back and written by Marty Bryant, who also composed for fellow Philadelphians The Stylistics. “He was very, very talented, energetic,” Kim has said of Bryant. “I think he had a lot of faith in us, which I appreciate now.”

The vocals are raw on Brand New Generation, underlining the girls’ youth – they were all between the ages of 12 and 16 at the time of recording. Joni has remembered how anxious their mother, an actor, was when they considered pursuing singing professionally. “We grew up around showbusiness but our mother was a real stickler for education,” she said. “It was important to her that we had college degrees to fall back on, and so we did that.”

5: Thinking Of You (from ‘We Are Family’, 1979)

Thinking Of You was a belated and unexpected hit for Sister Sledge. Originally part of 1979’s We Are Family album, it was given a standalone UK release in 1984, during an otherwise quiet period for the group. “I think what makes it stand out is the melody,” Kathy Sledge, who sings lead on the track, has said. “A lot of DJs have told me that my voice is uplifting, but it’s really special when you hear a song that’s uplifting to sing, and Thinking Of You is that, 100 per cent.”

It is also one of Sister Sledge’s most covered songs, with versions by Maureen and Paul Weller both charting in the UK. Thinking Of You was also taken up during the COVID-19 pandemic as a message to loved ones kept physically apart from one another. Kathy says that its secret is the cheerful message. “The feedback I get about it is always the same thing: ‘That song makes me so happy.’ It’s a gorgeous melody. They’re simple lyrics, but they’re very special.”

4: He’s The Greatest Dancer (from ‘We Are Family’, 1979)

Dancing was very important to Sister Sledge. “We were the first girl group to ever dance full on, and do choreography, and have movements,” Kathy Sledge said in 2021. But He’s The Greatest Dancer, one of their best-known songs, was originally intended as a Chic song. This is perhaps apparent in the lyrics; while the hints at sex and lust would seem unremarkable in a Chic context, lines such as “please take me home” caused difficulty with the Sledge sisters. “To them, that [line] made them seem like loose women,” Nile Rodgers said.

It’s also notable for being among the first instances of a trend that would soon become much more widespread in pop music: namechecking fashion brands. Here, Kathy Sledge sings of the male dancer’s love for “Haston, Gucci and Fiorucci”. From Run-DMC’s My Adidas to the “red bottom” Louboutin shoes in Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow, this phenomenon would only grow over time, and its popularity can be dated to this entry among the best Sister Sledge songs.

3: Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me (from ‘Circle Of Love’, 1975)

“I remember we recorded an album, and it was just fun,” Kim said, of Sister Sledge’s first full-length release, Circle Of Love. The girls were not expecting the instant reaction they got – which, thrillingly, included an invitation to play at the Tokyo Music Festival. “And we get off of a plane, and we’re in Japan. We’re seeing kids our age, zillions of ’em, with posters and pictures. We said, my goodness, this is really going on!”

Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me was indeed a very big hit in Japan and elsewhere, and remains one of the very best Sister Sledge songs of the 70s. Written by Patrick Grant and Gwen Guthrie, it’s from that point in the decade where soul music was becoming glossier, foreshadowing disco, yet remaining rooted in funk strut. It’s a stunner of a track, and deserves its high status within Sister Sledge’s enviable discography of floor-fillers.

2: We Are Family (from ‘We Are Family’, 1979)

“‘We have this group called Sister Sledge,’” Nile Rodgers said in 2007, quoting Atlantic Records president Jerry L Greenberg and his suggestion that Rodgers and Edwards work with them. “‘Everybody thinks that they’re wonderful girls and they stick together like birds of a feather. They’re really like family to us.’” The Chic architects then went home and wrote the song We Are Family based on this meeting. “[Greenberg] had basically dictated the lyrics of the song, almost verbatim,” Rodgers said.

“Recording the track We Are Family was like a one-take party,” Joni said in 2016. “We were just dancing and playing around and hanging out in the studio when we did it.” Ever since its creation, We Are Family has symbolised inclusion and solidarity in hundreds of different communities; as well as rejoicing in blood ties, it has become an anthem among the best LGBTQ+ songs. It has even given its name to the We Are Family Foundation, an organisation that works to celebrate cultural diversity.

1: Lost In Music (from ‘We Are Family’, 1979)

“It was like being in a trance,” Joni Sledge commented on how she, as lead vocalist, felt when recording Lost In Music. Debbie has also admitted that, when the group first heard it, they found it too repetitive. But soon the sisters found that the musical form of the song reflected the message of the lyrics: needing determination, belief and a certain amount of unglamorous grind to achieve success in the music business. The song and its sentiment are so versatile that they could apply not only to Sister Sledge but to the band who recorded its most famous cover version: Manchester awkward squad The Fall.

“That feeling was happening to us, right at that exact moment,” Debbie has said of the track that tops our list of the best Sister Sledge songs. “Lost In Music always felt very true to us because it was describing what was going on in our lives at the time.”

“If you have something that you really, really desire, and you’re good at it,” Debbie says, “even if you’re raw, it’s a good thing to do. And don’t let anybody deter you from it.”

Find out where We Are Family ranks among the best LGBTQ+ songs.

More Like This

Best Record Store Day 2024 Vinyl: 20 Releases You Need To Buy
List & Guides

Best Record Store Day 2024 Vinyl: 20 Releases You Need To Buy

Incendiary live recordings and an unreleased David Bowie album are essential purchases among the best Record Store Day 2024 vinyl releases.

Best Albums Of 2024: 10 Essential Releases Of The Year
List & Guides

Best Albums Of 2024: 10 Essential Releases Of The Year

From waves of neo-psychedelia to lashings of pop-punk ire, the best albums of 2024 prove this year has been packed with watershed moments.

Sign up to our newsletter

Be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Sign Up