Kathy Sledge Talks About Solos and Sisters

by Michael Rampa

kathy-sledge-2The disco era. Some want to toss it out as a mulligan in music history. Children of the era defend it with a Dangerfield-esque “don’t get no respect” stance. Nonetheless it produced some of the most iconic music of all time and was not just a fad; it was a cultural phenomenon that defined a generation and paved the way for modern dance music.

Kathy Sledge was at the forefront of the era and the lead vocalist on one of the most iconic songs of all time. Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” is still heard everywhere from commercials to weddings and bar mitzvahs.  Everyone knows the full chorus. You can’t get the melody out of your head for days. Kathy’s solo music has morphed into a modern genre that she, perhaps unknowingly at the time, helped to spawn. EDM or Electronic Dance Music is now an industry force with its own Billboard Chart.

Kathy finds herself again at the head of a new movement with her autobiographical Billboard No. 2 single “Keep It Movin. “ The track breaks some new ground while keeping vintage soul at its core. As life moves forward, so does she; be it in a production capacity on her “My Sisters and Me” tour with CeCe Penniston, Denice Williams and Karyn White or looking to create new music in multiple genres. I had a chance to catch up with her via phone from her native Philadelphia.

What brought about your collaboration on the single (Keep On Movin’) with the Aristofreeks?

They reached out to me and wanted to do remixes of my Sister Sledge stuff. It was that simple. I wasn’t really interested in doing remixes of the early stuff, so I said, ‘why don’t you guys do it and instead of it being my record, so why don’t you just make it your record and say “featuring Kathy Sledge” so that way you can get what you want and it would be a nice collaboration.

It hit #2 on the Billboard Club chart. To what do you attribute that success and were you surprised?

We did a test market and it just got such a strong response I’m very excited because I did write it and it’s my mantra about just keep going forward in life.

Do you think EDM is an evolution of Disco?

Yes, there are a lot of names for it now, As we speak, they’re talking about making it “soulful house,” The name changes but the vibe is the same whatever you call it. It does the same thing.

kathy-sledgeThe disco era gets a bad rap sometimes- does that bother you at all since Sister Sledge is synonymous with it?

I always say the group happened around the disco time but it the song “We Are Family” has outlived it. The song has truly stood the test of time. As in any genre, there are good songs and bad songs. It’s been used by Barack (Obama), Hillary (Clinton) and in the gay pride parade. It’s very recognizable, relevant and new to a whole generation. There’s always going to be room for good songs in any genre.

That being said, I’m careful about doing disco events because I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I think the song has outlived one era but there is a resurgence of disco, especially in Europe. It’ new to a whole generation.

You clearly could have gone the soul/R&B route; why did you choose EDM for this project?

Right now, I am working on R&B, AC and jazz with Dick Parsons’ (co Chief Operating Officer of AOL/Time Warner) new label. I want to put out as much powerful, uplifting music as possible. At this stage of my life, I’d love to work in any different genres. We lost a lot of incredible artists in the last few years like Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston. I feel a need to uplift.

Your project “The Brighter side of Day” was a tribute to Billie Holiday. Was it intimidating at all given who you were honoring?

Not at all I’ve always been a big fan of Billie and I love to see her depicted without a glass in her hand or a needle in her harm. We all know the heavy story, so I wanted to show her happy side and take people back to the Forties.

What is your take on music in the digital age?

You have to hope good music will end up in the right ears no matter what the delivery system. But that’s why I started leaning toward production and performing. You’re delivering an experience to people. You can’t compete with free downloads. Artists have to change with times and be innovative in branding. The perils are not going away.

You are the lead vocalist on some of the most iconic songs of all time- what does that mean to you?

It’s amazing. I had no idea they were still going to be around. My two year old knows these songs. It’s a true blessing. People come up to me after all these years and tell me what that song means to them and It blows my mind they’re so surprised to meet me. Sometimes, with such a big song you actually forget there’s a face attached to the voice.

For more, visit www.kathysledge.com

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