Kathy Sledge is a Renaissance woman — a singer, songwriter, author, producer, manager, and Grammy-nominated music icon whose boundless creativity and passion has garnered praise from critics and a legion of fans from all over the world. Her artistic triumphs encompass chart-topping hits, platinum albums, and successful forays into several genres of popular music. Through her multi-faceted solo career and her legacy as a signature voice in Sister Sledge who originated worldwide anthems like “We Are Family,” which was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2017, and “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” Kathy’s inspired millions of listeners across every generation.
Early in her career, Kathy was often called the female counterpart to Michael Jackson since both came of age on stage as the youngest siblings and lead vocalists in a family group. Fueled by a prodigious musical talent, Kathy’s journey began in Philadelphia, the youngest of five daughters born to Edwin and Florez Sledge. Her grandmother was an opera singer who taught her harmonies while her father was one-half of Fred & Sledge, the tapping duo who broke racial barriers on Broadway. “I learned the appreciation and the art of music through my mother, father, and my grandmother,” she says. Kathy and her sisters honed their act around Philadelphia and signed a contract with Atco Records. At the tender age of 13, Kathy’s lead vocals on “Mama Never Told Me” (1973) furnished the group’s first international hit record in the U.K. Their follow-up “Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me” scored them major hits everywhere from the U.K. to Japan, plus the Silver Award at the Tokyo Music Festival. At 14 years-old, Kathy and her sisters were invited to perform at Zaire 74, a three-day music festival that promoted the historic “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. “To this day, that was one of the most powerful and impactful experiences I’ve had,” she says.
However, groundbreaking producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards (the CHIC Organization) completely changed their lives. The #1 We Are Family (1979) album went platinum and earned plaudits from the rock press. “‘We Are Family,’ beautifully sung by Kathy Sledge, is a near perfect fusion of gospel fire and disco cool,” wrote Stephen Holden in Rolling Stone. The song’s sentiment also stuck a personal chord with Kathy, who recorded her vocals in one take. Successful collaborations with musical geniuses like George Duke, Elton John, and Narada Michael Walden duly followed. “Take Me Back to Love Again,” the #1 Billboard club hit from Kathy’s debut solo project Heart on Epic Records, a chart-topping cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star,” and several other singles have since powered Kathy’s solo career, which continues to flourish through her recent studio work with acclaimed R&B producers Carvin Haggins and Ivan Barias (Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott).
O Magazine spotlighted Kathy’s remarkable evolution in a feature article she wrote titled “Better Than Ever” (2012). Out of 50 women worldwide, Kathy was among four women who the magazine selected to discuss the journey of getting better with time. O Magazine was especially impressed that Kathy conceived and produced The Brighter Side of Day: A Tribute to Billie Holiday, an intimate production that celebrates the music of the 1940s and honors the legacy of Lady Day. Hailed as “a spine-tingling musical journey of an American icon” (NBC 10), the show manifests a lifelong passion of Kathy’s where she explores what it would be like for audiences to attend a Billie Holiday concert. Stanley Clarke, who calls Kathy’s voice “one of the greatest jazz voices I’ve ever heard,” is among the legendary jazz greats who will collaborate with Kathy to record a companion album for The Brighter Side of Day, which will pay tribute to the musical era that produced some of Billie Holiday’s most seminal work.
With an impressive stylistic versatility, Kathy remains a vibrant presence in nearly every genre of popular music. “Music is my passion,” she declares. “It’s what I love to do. Throughout my career, and now more than ever, I’ve been asked to sing all different kinds of music.” As one of the most sought-after voices in dance music, Kathy received the “Outstanding Contribution Award” at the 2013 Ibiza DJ Awards. She recorded and co-wrote the infectious “Keep It Movin'” with Ibiza-based duo Aristofreeks, which made the Top 5 of Billboard’s dance chart and led to a full-length studio project she’s currently preparing called Aristofreeks featuring Kathy Sledge.
Parallel to her studio work, Kathy has established an active philanthropic platform through the timeless musical statement of “We Are Family.” She sits on the Board of Directors with Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation and is a Goodwill Ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the Halo Foundation. “‘We Are Family’ is a mountain-mover,” says Kathy, who recently performed it for former First Lady Michelle Obama at Black Girls Rock! and UNESCO’s first Nelson Mandela International Day. As the defining voice of an anthem, Kathy’s regularly invited by royal families and cultural tastemakers around the globe to bring the universal language of “We Are Family” to exclusive events and engagements.
A pair of new stage productions capture Kathy’s dynamism as a live performer who galvanizes audiences with hits that stand the test of time. The concept of sisterhood sparked “Kathy Sledge presents: My Sisters & Me,” a concert series that features Kathy alongside other “sisters in song” who’ve had iconic hits. Kathy successfully launched the first classic edition of My Sisters & Me with Deniece Williams, Karyn White, and CeCe Peniston, and will include a rotating roster of artists in future presentations. Kathy tells her own intimate story through My Sister Sledge Storybook, an up close and personal evening of the songs that define Kathy’s lifelong journey in music. “I feel like I’m opening up my journal right in front of you,” says Kathy, who performs all the hits the way listeners know and love them. “I want to walk you through the music and tell the story behind it.”
While Kathy Sledge consistently sets new standards of excellence in her career, she’s only now begun to see the way her voice has impacted countless listeners over the years. The passing of contemporaries like Prince compels Kathy to create music for future generations. “When Prince left us, it jolted us,” she says. “He gifted us decades of music that we can listen to for years to come. I grew up never knowing my voice was special. Now, at this place in my life, I do, and I’d like to gift it with beautiful music. That’s my passion as an artist.” And with that passion, Kathy Sledge is stepping back into the spotlight, shining brighter than ever. No less an authority than Nile Rodgers says it best: “Kathy has one of the most original and unique voices in pop music. Always has and always will!”