Classics: Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer (Cotillion)
Chic most likely saw the light with the rise of the Disco movement in NYC. And no doubt as to how ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ might pretty much have found a natural place on the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ OST if the film had been released a bit later on. But none of us could rewrite history at the end and this will remain a supposition at the end. Meanwhile, a quick look at history, sems to tell as to how ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ resonates as a beautiful finger given to the promoters of the Disco Demolition Night at the end.
Mind you, the lyrics evoke the idea of hedonism. And also a certain one of narcissism. Menwhile mentioning the names of the designers of the clothes this Greatest Dancer is wearing. Ie. Fiorucci, Halston, Gucci. The girls being furious at the perspective of singing “My crème de la crème please take me home”. Then eventually suggesting to replace this with “My crème de la crème, please don’t go home”. Something that both Rodgers and Edwards refused to do. Which didn’t get Sister Sledge from scoring their biggest success ever at the end…
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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