Sunday 25 February 2018

Kim Sledge: We sang for the Pope - all the nuns were jumping up and down to 'We are Family'

Kim Sledge is a singer and member of the pop group Sister Sledge, one of the most successful female groups of the 1970s and 80s. Born in Pennsylvania in the US, she still lives there with her husband, Mark, and their children - Laura, Julie and Mark

Kim Sledge of pop group 'Sister Sledge'.
Kim Sledge of pop group 'Sister Sledge'.

Ciara Dwyer

My mornings are very peaceful. I get up at 4am. The Lord wakes me. I start my day with prayer - I praise the Lord for a new day as I watch the sun rise. Sometimes I'm alone in the house. My husband, Mark, is a surgeon, and he could be working in hospital. We have three children, all grown up. They might be away, too. I put on the coffee pot.

Praying sets me up for the day. I grew up in the Baptist church. When I was on the road with my sisters [the pop group Sister Sledge], we would all be praying. My grandmother travelled with us and we used to sing for her in church. We were always believers, but I didn't become an ordained minister until much later, in 2000. I believe that all creative gifts are part of worship, because we've been given these special gifts. We are created to give Him glory in the gift that we have, and it also brings joy to others.

At 5am, I get on the prayer-line and pray with a group of people for two hours. It's like a conference call. When that's done, I'll sit and be quiet and reflect for a little bit. Then I'll look at my list of things to do, and I'm busy from that moment on until 11pm at night. I'll probably have some yoghurt for breakfast but I'm not big on eating. I usually have to remind myself to eat. After a good walk, I take care of business - all of this is associated with Sister Sledge.

Music is a huge part of my life. Although Sister Sledge formed professionally in 1971, we were singing and dancing from the very beginning. When we were little girls, our grandmother would take us over to the piano. She was a soprano. She would teach us songs, and appreciation for all kinds of music. My father was a tap dancer on Broadway and my mother was an actress, so performing was in our genes from the beginning.

We were performing when we were still in school. I was 13 when I started singing in Sister Sledge. One time we did a show which started at 4pm and ended at 4am.We did six sets and we loved it. Our mom was our manager, and she used to drive us around in a Chevrolet convertible. On weekends, we'd tour the whole eastern seaboard and then back to school on Mondays. Sometimes we'd pull up to the school steps directly from the clubs where we'd worked. It was such fun for us. But there was one rule - if you love it and you want to do it, you have to keep your grades. They had to be excellent, and we managed that.

We had an absolute blast, and we still do. We're so looking forward to coming to Ireland in July. You enjoy seeing someone enjoy you. We always did our own choreography and we chose our clothes ourselves. The more money we made, the better our clothes became. I love our song The Greatest Dancer because it's so joyful. We always invite people up on stage to dance to it, and from that moment, they are stars. And everybody loves We Are Family. We've sung it at bar mitzvahs and football reunions. We even sang it for the Pope. All the nuns were jumping up and down to it, especially with the line - 'I've got all my sisters with me'. It was the best.

Our faith and our family kept us from so many temptations when we were on the road. Did we see things? Absolutely. I remember walking backstage - there'd be a little room further back where there would be drugs and other stuff going on. We didn't gravitate to places where there was a lot of drinking and drugging, because there was such fear put in us. As young people, we had family on the road. My aunts were there, my mom was there and our uncles were like bodyguards. We were very sheltered. Then, later on, when we were married, our children always came on the road with us. Our dressing rooms were full of babies, and before performing, I would nurse on the side of the stage. It was our profession and a job, so we made the job home.

There is no glamour in my household. When I'm not performing, I put on a pair of sweats and do the garden. I live an ordinary life - I go to the supermarket, I do the laundry and change the cat litter. If someone asks me for an autograph, I just do it discreetly and then get on with my day. That's my real life.

When we're performing, we're always in transition. There's always a suitcase or an overnight bag. The last time I met up with my sisters for a tour, we were talking about efficient ways to pack. On the day of a performance, we're really focussed. We rehearse, do a soundcheck, rehearse again and then we get ready. We don't wear matching outfits any more, we just match the colours. Even though comfort is number one, I still wear high-heeled boots. Being sisters, the conversations are the same as in any family. There might be a disagreement over something silly like - 'I was planning to wear those shoes and you've taken them' - but it's never anything important. It's crucial to have peace in the dressing room.

Before a show, we'll have organic fruit and tea. Then we become quiet to get into the right frame of mind, and we usually pray. On stage, there's such spontaneity. As sisters, you have that silent language between you. It's great to watch the eyes of the audience and transform the room into a place of sheer joy.

Afterwards, I take off the high-heeled boots and get cleaned up. We might go out for something to eat or head back to the hotel room to have some hot chocolate and watch a good movie. We get some rest and get geared up for the next day. I still get up at 4am.

Sister Sledge play The Punchestown Music Festival, featuring Lionel Richie, at Punchestown Racecourse on Saturday, July 23. Tickets, priced €69.50, are on sale now. See, or tel: (0818) 719-300

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