A day in the life of a Sledge sis­ter

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

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - CONTENTS - 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 tick­et­mas­ter.ie, or tel: (0818) 719-300

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.

Fam­ily came on the road. Our dress­ing rooms were full of ba­bies. Be­fore per­form­ing, I’d nurse on the side of the stage

In con­ver­sa­tion with Ciara Dwyer

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