Classics: Sister Sledge – Got To Love Somebody (Cotillion)
No matter what! History’s pretty much made of vagaries in the position to influence our destiny one way or another. You reach the Grail at a moment, the way Sister Sledge obviously did with ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’, ‘We Are Family’ and ‘Lost In Music’. Then you fail in reproducing the same results although comin’ up with the exact same surroundings a few months after. This being pretty much what happened to the girls when releasing ‘Got To Love Somebody’ back in December 1979.
Hard to believe ‘Got To Love Somebody’ didn’t do better than peakin’ at #64 position on the US Pop charts and #6 on the R&B/Soul charts. As pretty much in the caliber of if not even better than its recent predecessors as a matter of fact. With thanks to another Bernard Edwards‘ rumblin’ bassline. But also the inclusion of firing horns courtesy of Eddie Daniels, Meco Monardo and Bob Milliken. Not to mention backing vocals by the likes of Alfa Anderson, Fonzi Thorntonn, Luci Martin and Michelle Cobbs
A cut somehow reminding of Chic‘s recent ‘I’ll Be There’…
Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy Sledge got given vocal training by their grandma, Viola Williams. Herself a former lyric soprano opera singer and protégé of civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune.
Sister Sledge released their first single – ‘Time Will Tell’ – back in 1971 on local music label Money Back. Although they would have to wait for another 3 years to enjoy their first taste of success. This with the Patrick Grant and Gwen Guthrie penned ‘Love Don’t Go Through No Changes On Me’, with arrangements courtesy of Bert DeCoteaux. The song became a big hit in Japan. And, as a result, the girls came to the country and performed at the Tokyo Music Festival where they won the Silver Prize. Eventually sharing the bill with James Brown, The Spinners, Bill Withers, The Crusaders, Manu Dibango, and others. This at the Zaire 74 concert in Africa during The Rumble in the Jungle boxing event which opposed Muhammad Ali to George Foreman.
Another year on (1975), and their debut-album – ‘Circle Of Love’ – came to light might on Atco Records. With its title track written by Patrick Adams. Meanwhile, ‘Together’, their second effort, followed back in 1977, featuring a cover version of Stevie Wonder‘s ‘As’. Their label, Atlantic Records, deciding to connect them with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the Chic fame to handle the production of their third album…
The girls would get to the upper gear from then. With their ‘We Are Family’ album bringing them to the forefront. From ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’, although they more or less argued about its lyrics for some time, to its title track. But also ‘Lost In Music’ and ‘Thinking Of You’. Its follow-up – ‘Love Somebody Today’ – which hit the streets only a few months later didn’t get the same following though. This despite the presence of the same production team and the inclusion of the solid ‘Got To Love Somebody’.
1981 marked a turn with Sister Sledge teamin’ up with producer Narada Michael Walden. This resulting in the release of their ‘All American Girls’ and the delivery of 4 extra singles. With the strongest of them – its title cut – gettin’ them to #3 on the R&B/Soul charts. Meanwhile its follow-up – The Sisters – which they self-produced saw them comin’ up with another cover version. This by the likes of Mary Wells‘ classic ‘My Guy’.
‘Bet Cha Say That To All The Girls’, their 7th album, saw them teamin’ up with producer George Duke. And eventually sharing the vocal duties with Al Jarreau on its title track. ‘When The Boys Meet The Girls’, their 8th album, bringin’ them a couple of extra hits in the UK. This via ‘Frankie’ and ‘Dancing On The Jagged Edge’ with production work courtesy of Nile Rodgers on his own at the time.
By 1989, Kathy came to start a solo career and her sisters came to release an extra album – ‘And Now…Sledge…Again’ – on Italian label New Music International. Thus collaborating with various producers. From Bluey of the Incognito fame on ‘World Rise & Shine’ to various local producers who eventually retouched their biggest classics.
Joni Sledge sadly died of natural causes, aged 60, at her home in Phoenix, AZ on Mar. 10, 2017.
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