‘WE Are Family’ is the album that finally established Sister Sledge as a major disco force in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Tracks He’s The Greatest Dancer, Lost In Music and Thinking Of You were all firm dancing favourites with night clubbers as was indeed the title track ‘We Are Family’.
Although Sledge sisters Debbie, Joni, Kim and Kathy went on to enjoy yet more success, We Are Family represented their zenith. Deserved international acclaim after nearly two decades of playing primarily to American audiences.
In recent years, the Sledges have suffered some devastating blows with the death last year of Joni at the tender age of 60. But you cannot keep the Sledges down for long.
Debbie and Kim – like all the sisters professionally trained to sing by their grandmother Viola – continue to perform with gusto while the Sledge family is now regenerating in the powerful and thrilling form of Camille Sledge, daughter of 63-year old Debbie (the eldest of the sisters, still looking scintillating).
Judged on Camille’s jaw dropping performance at Pizza Express Live in London’s Holborn, the Sledge brand will remain in the spotlight for a little while yet.
Opting for a beautiful but conservative kaftan dress and headscarf in preference to one of the more garish outfits worn by the sisters at the height of their success, Camille thrilled as she demonstrated that she has inherited her mother’s voice.
Tall and elegant like her mother who was in the audience she possesses a powerful stage presence and an engaging personality, occasionally falling to her knees as she delivers her songs. By the end she had the audience eating out of her hand – rather than from Pizza Express’s menu card.
The theme for the night was a tribute to the Queen of soul, Aretha Franklin. Not an easy challenge, but Camille rose to it majestically as she belted out one classic hit after another. Stand outs included You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, Do Right Woman Do Right Man You, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, Chain Of Fools, Ain’t No Way and I Say A Little Prayer.
In between songs, Camille sensitively shed light on Aretha’s difficult upbringing – fathered by a preacher who was known for his promiscuity and organising wild orgies at his church, falling pregnant at the age of twelve to a pimp (who funded her music) and having her second child at age 14. Throughout Aretha remained a woman of God.
While Camille was the focal point of the night’s entertainment, she allowed her band to breathe. Not surprising given its quality.
On drums was David ‘Fingers’ Haynes who relished the opportunity to show his mastery of hand drums on I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You. He also excelled on Until You Come Back To Me, a song written for Aretha by Stevie Wonder.
Brazilian bassist Romulo Duarte displayed his obvious talent on Ain’t No Way where he provided the sole musical backing to Camille. Pared back and effective. He also lifted Chain Of Fools onto another level.
On piano Ken Linh Doky (son of Danish Jazz pianist Niels Lans Doky) demonstrated that like Camille, who has inherited Debbie’s voice and stage presence, he has his father’s talent coursing through his genes. Particularly masterful on Baby I Love You. His father, sitting in the audience, would have been proud.
Although Niels stayed in his seat, Debbie Sledge came on stage to join Camille complete her Aretha tribute with a rousing version of Respect. And of course, there was just enough time for mother (still possessing a wonderful voice) and daughter to remind us that irrespective of background and faith We Are Family.
Great entertainment from Phoenix based Camille Sledge. Sister Sledge and now Daughter Sledge. Come back soon.