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Debbie Sledge: Spreading the love


THEY ARE responsible for creating one of the world’s biggest girl power tracks back in the 70s, and more than 30 years later, Sister Sledge, are still spreading the message of female empowerment.

Hailing from Philadelphia, the line-up is comprises sisters Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy Sledge whose biggest success came with the 1979 album and single We Are Family. Other hits included Lost In Music. Kathy left in 1989 but Sister Sledge continued to perform and record as a trio.

The eldest of the four sisters, Debbie Sledge talks to Life & Style about the group’s new multi-platform campaign, Nothing Is Greater Than Love (NGTL).

In today’s tumultuous world, filled with the rigours of life’s ups and downs, the need for a powerful message to encompass the important global values of peace, love and empowerment has never resonated as strongly as it does now – thus NGTL was borne.

“Nothing is Greater Than Love is a concept which is a principle that we learned and that has sustained us over the years,” Sledge explains.

“Actually God is at the centre of it because it’s based on the scripture, in my own words, that 'God is Love'. Nothing is greater than God, nothing is greater than Love. God’s love is the ultimate love and that's what sustains us.”

The ultimate aim of the brand is to create awareness of this powerful message to instigate positive change in society through awakened empathy. A percentage of proceeds will be donated to a consortium of international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), charities and community partners chosen by Sister Sledge that reflect the NGTL message.

Visual brand identities in the form of logos and other collateral also will be developed, along with a special online campaign video and signature music tune to promote the messaging and help it to resonate with a global audience.

Raised in a Christian household to parents in the entertainment industry, the sisters have always been immersed in music.
“We grew up in a very musical family,” Sledge, 62, shares the story of the band.

“As young girls we had fun imitating our favourite artistes such as The Supremes. Our grandmother was an opera singer and taught us how to sing and to appreciate all kinds of music. Our mother was a jazz fan and we grew up in a household full of music.”

She continues: “We never really decided to form a group, we just sang. Then one day, we performed for a recording company, and that’s how it all started.”

ANTHEM: We Are Family was produced Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards

Although the group did well, the girls, who were all of school age, still had to keep up with their studies.

“Our mother, who was a great role model, just laid down the law. She said ‘you have to finish your education. You can do this, but your education comes first’,” Sledge recalls.

“We often did a lot of studying on the road while we were travelling. We used to find the odd spot somewhere where could study. I remember once finding Kim in the shower studying!”

Having enjoyed marginal success in Europe during the middle of the 70s, mainstream success was achieved when the breakthrough album We Are Family was released in 1979.

The records anthemic namesake became a worldwide smash charting at No. 2 in the pop charts and No. 1 in the R&B rundown.

The song and group were nominated for a Grammy and We Are Family was adopted as the official anthem for The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team who went on to win the World Series that year.

The track was released almost 40 years ago and was recently used in a television advert for online fashion retailer, Boohoo - proving its relevance and longevity.

“It’s such a good feeling to know that the song has had great longevity. It’s a marvel to us. We’re amazed at what God has done to carry that song through the years. It uplifts us every time we sing it and it’s wonderful to see how it’s

received even to this day. That’s a real honour,” she says.

As part of the NGTL movement, the sisters will be releasing a new album this spring.

“We’re really excited about it. The theme we’re working on is empowerment for women.”

Having experienced most of their success in the disco era in the 70s and 80s, what does the star think of the current music scene?

“I think there’s some very great music coming out at the moment,” Sledge comments. “One of the things that I don’t see is an individual sound coming out. It’s always so refreshing when you have something very new and unique, and there was more of that in the disco era.”

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