We Are Family

Album: We Are Family (1979)
Charted: 8 2

Songfacts®:

  • Sister Sledge is four sisters whose last names really are Sledge. They were a backup band for various artists before releasing this album, which was their first. This was their biggest hit; their first single, "He's The Greatest Dancer," was also a Top 10 hit in the US.
  • This was written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers; their band Chic had a hit at the time with "Le Freak." Rodgers and Edwards got the idea for the song's title when they first met the sisters.
  • The guitar riff is based on a song called "Do What You Wanna Do" by Children Of God. Rodgers was waiting for the right song to use it on.
  • Luther Vandross, a struggling singer at the record label, sang backup. He became a star years later.
  • This song became an anthem for women's groups and a message of unity. The sisters of Sister Sledge told Top 2000 a gogo they're proud of the song because it gives them a familial connection with their fans, who often share stories with the group about their own families. It also represents the closeness of the sisters, who grew up singing as a form of recreation. Their grandmother was an opera singer who taught the girls how to harmonize and invited them to sing at her church. As a result, in their early days of performing around Philadelphia, they were known as Mrs. Williams' Granddaughters.
  • The group recorded this in one take. Kathy Sledge, who sang lead, did not know the lyrics ahead of time. Rodgers and Edwards gave her each line through her headphones as it came up to make it sound spontaneous.
  • This was used in commercials for an early version of Diet Pepsi called Pepsi Free, with the obvious line, "We are Pepsi Free."
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team used this as their theme song in 1979. Led by Willie "Pops" Stargell, they came back from a 3 games to 1 deficit to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. The song got constant airplay on Pittsburgh radio stations as the Pirates' season progressed. For the team, it represented players of different backgrounds coming together as one. The words "The Family" were printed on top of their dugout during the World Series.
  • Bernard Edwards went on to produce The Power Station and was recognized as one of the great bass players of the disco era. He died of pneumonia in 1996 at age 43.
  • The all-girl rock group Babes in Toyland released a popular cover of this song in 1995.
  • In 2001, Nile Rodgers produced a new version of this song featuring Britney Spears, Steven Tyler, 'N Sync, Run-D.M.C., Busta Rhymes, Kevin Bacon, Joan Rivers and Vanessa Williams along with Sister Sledge. Proceeds went to help families of victims of the terrorist attacks on America. Spike Lee shot the video for the new version.
  • In 2003, Joe Lieberman used this as his campaign song when he started running for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. He was trying to push the message that he could unite the Democrats and win the election.
  • Nile Rodgers considers the We Are Family album to be the best LP he's ever made. He told Billboard magazine in 2017: "That was the record that proved we could do what we do for ourselves for others, that we could look inside someone's soul and put our version of their truth onto them and superimpose it onto them and create this new entity we believed we understood. There's no filler on Sister Sledge; every song is awesome. It was a record that was really incredible to us."
  • This was used in these TV shows:

    Medium ("1-900-Lucky" - 2007)
    The Wire ("Margin Of Error" - 2006)
    Entourage ("The Bat Mitzvah" - 2005)
    The Simpsons ("Brawl In The Family" - 2002)
    Gilmore Girls ("Kill Me Now" - 2000)
    The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air ("Christmas Show" - 1991, "There's The Rub: Part 2" - 1995)

    And in these movies:

    Bridget Jones's Baby (2016)
    My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
    Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011)
    You Again (2010)
    Mission: Impossible III (2006)
    Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)
    The Full Monty (1997)
    The Birdcage (1996)
    Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit (1993)

Comments: 15

  • Jeremy Jerome from The BronxThis song reminds me of my mom. She used to play this song all the time
  • Ironbob from AlabamaAs crazy as it sounds, I distinctly remember Sister Sledge being on the Gong Show and they won that night. I've not been able to find a single reference to it though.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm
    Joni Sledge, founding member of Sister Sledge, was found dead in her Phoenix, Arizona home Friday (March 10th, 2017), she was 60...
    No cause of death was immediately known. Joni, along with her sisters Debra, Kim and Kathy, formed the group in 1971 in Philadelphia, initially recording for Money Records. A single for Atco Records, "Love Don't You Go Through No Changes On Me" did make it to #92 in 1975 (and took the Silver Prize at the Tokyo Music Festival). But it wasn't until the quartet paired with producers Bernard Edwards and Niles Rogers of Chic that they broke through with "He's The Greatest Dance"(#9 in 1979) on Cotillion Records. It was immediately followed by "We Are Family" (#2* in 1979). But six more chart appearances yielded only one more hit, a cover of Mary Wells' "My Guy" (#23 in 1982). Kathy left for a solo career in 1989, but the remaining three sisters continued performing...
    May she R.I.P.
    * The two weeks that "We Are Family" was at #2 on the Top 100 chart, the #1 record for both those weeks was "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 22nd 1979, "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #63; and on June 10th it peaked at #2 (for 2 weeks) and also spent 19 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on June 3rd it reached #1 (for 1 week) on Billboard's HOT R&B Singles chart and on July 14th also peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) on the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart...
    On Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart in a medley with "He's the Greatest Dancer" & "Lost In Music" it reached #1 (for 2 weeks) on March 18th...
    The two weeks "We Are Family" was at #2 on the Top 100; the #1 record for both those weeks was "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhI cannot believe all these years I thought the Pointer Sisters sang this song! Here it is, July 2013, and the radio station played this today because the Buccos (Pittsburgh Pirates) have the best record in baseball this season. I LOVE the song, it is iconic. Yes, I have three sisters, but this tune represents so much more than that. I have a husband, son, stepson, grandkids, so many other extended family members and people I feel are my family altho we're not blood related. This is one of those songs that will make you feel great. For some reason, I was actually in tears today listening to it, happy, blessed tears...it brings back so many memories of the 70s, the good, the bad, the crazy and can't believe I survived it all memories. I love learning that it was done in one take with the lyrics being fed to the lead singer one line at a time. The guitar riff makes it that much more memorable.
  • Xav from Chicago, IlI also think of "Private Benjamin" when I hear this.
  • Tom from Souderton, PaDebbie Sledge was in my painting class at art school. I had no idea this quiet, mild mannered, girl was a rock star. If you read this, Debbie, look me up!
  • Lou from Cudahy, WiA Great song for the Pirates that year
  • John from Nashville, TnAlthough they did not write the song, Nile and Bernard insisted that the sisters receive a mechanical royalty every time it's played on the airwaves.
  • Marius from Zurich, SwitzerlandThis was Number 6 in the Swiss-Charts.
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, Njfun song. unfortuneatly, i don't have a sister, so i can't really relate
  • Bryon from Wichita, KsThis was not Sister Sledge's first album. They had released a few before We Are Family, which were largely ignored by radio.
  • Alan from City, MiI have heard that Sister Sledge (really sisters) were nieces of Percy "When a Man Loves a Woman" Sledge. Anybody out there know for sure?
  • Helen from York, EnglandFor a long time I was convinced this song contained the line "just let me staple the vicar". Apparently it's quite a common misheard lyrics.
  • Deana from Indianapolis, InCan anyone forget Gene Hackman in The Birdcage?
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