Standard Sounds

Sister Sledge, We Are Family 2020

We chat with Debbie Slegde of the 'sledgendary' Disco Sisters, before they take the stage at Top of The Standard for New Year's Eve 2020.

THE STANDARD: Back in 1979, when your worldwide breakthrough album ‘We Are Family’ was released, could you have anticipated you would still perform those songs 40 years later, on the last night of 2019, on top of New York?
DEBBIE SLEDGE: Never in our wildest dreams! We are all still amazed and in awe! What a journey, it has taken us from the studios of New York all over the world and back to the top of the Big Apple!

As young women in the late 70’s and early 80’s, what were your expectations about the future?
We were wide-eyed and excited. And so happy to be a part of the music scene doing what we love doing. We had no idea what to expect … We were so naive! [Laughs]

Before 1979 and the release of ‘We Are Family’, you had a few hits through the 1970’s, including  "Love Don’t Go Through No Changes On Me" which was a big success in Japan. You were flown to Tokyo to perform there. Was it a foretaste of what was coming up for Sister Sledge?
That first trip to Japan was indeed a surprising adventure. We had no idea that we had such loving and excited supporters in Tokyo! We were actually met on the runway with smiles, banners, and flowers and cheers. Also many cameras! Anyone seeing those photos can see that the biggest surprise was on me...I still had my hair in rollers! [Laughs] This was the beginning of Lost In Music, “joining a band" to play in "front of crazy fans”. And we love every minute to this day.

“All of my six children were born in the height of the disco dance craze!” –Debbie Sledge

Tell us about the legendary concert Zaire 74. In your sister Kim’s words:  “James Brown burst in and he was shouting and pulling everyone and saying ‘we gotta go to Africa’ and ‘I’ve a plane at the airport, we’re going to see Muhammad Ali fight and put on the greatest concert that has ever been seen!" What was your state of mind when flying back to America?
Our trip to Zaire Africa was one of the highlights of our careers! We will forever cherish the honor of being, not only a part of this historic and iconic event, but to be among the greatest, legendary artist of all times all in one place at one incredible event! My state of mind at that time was, “How in the world did we end up here?” I can only say that God gave us favor and grace. The level of artistry and professionalism we witnessed and had the privilege to be a part of in Zaire has set the bar and has ingrained this truth in us.

Back in 1979, when 'We Are Family' was released, at the height of disco. What's your brightest memory of that year?
I had my second child in 1979.  So you could say dance and music is in the family DNA! All of my six children were born in the height of the disco dance craze! So for me disco has brought me the most wonderful gifts ever.

Disco was the time when the DJ became an important player in the music business, the one able to break records in nightclubs. Do you remember the first time you experienced your songs played by a DJ, in a nightclub, on a big sound system? 
I can say that I still get this amazing feeling every time I hear our music being pumped on a dance floor. It's a natural high and an irresistible call to dance!

"I believe the human family is as dysfunctional as ever."

Tell us about the last time you felt ‘Lost in Music’?
The last time I felt Lost In Music was the last concert we played, which was in Phoenix with Alice Cooper at his annual fundraiser for the Alice Cooper Solid RockTeen Center. Tanya, Camille and I performed with Alice Cooper along with his original band members, Gary Smith, Michael Bruce and Dennis Dunaway and a host of other rock stars like Johnny Depp and Mark Slaughter. We had a ball! Each and every performance is a Lost In Music performance! 

Looking back at 40 years of career and touring the world, who has been the greatest dancer? 
The Greatest Dancer is my husband! True story! I met him 28 years ago at a concert where he was the greatest dancer from the audience! He danced his way into my heart and we have been married for 26 years!

You once said ‘We Are Family’ is a ‘worldwide mantra’. Do you think the human family is more or less dysfunctional than it was in 1979?
I believe the human family is as dysfunctional as ever! However, I have also seen more and more the power of love and the awesome love warriors that have emerged because of the challenges, new and old that we all face.

As you perform at Top of The Standard, we’ll be entering  a new decade. What are your wishes for the 2020’s?
My wish is for my children to continue the legacy of family and all that “family" stands for in 2020 and beyond.  For me the joy of performing with my sons and daughters, and the opportunity to impart to them all that I have, while working and performing with them is more blessed than I could have imagined. With this in mind for all families, I believe 2020 is going to be the most amazing year yet!

Top of The Standard presents Sister Sledge
New Year's Eve 2020

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