PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – As we celebrate Black History Month, today we highlight a Philadelphia music legend. CBS3’s Janelle Burrell sat down with Kathy Sledge from Sister Sledge – they talked about everything from her deep roots in music, to how it’s still a family business, and how the pandemic has helped them to evolve.
“Friends in school, they would ask you, ‘what did you do this weekend?’ One would say I went to the mall, I went to the movies, and I would say, I was in England,” Sledge said.READ MORE: Thieves Steal ATM From West Philadelphia Laundromat
Kathy Sledge was still in grade school in Philadelphia when she and her sisters were gracing album covers and rubbing shoulders with celebrities.
“I remember, clearly saying, even back then, wow this is such blessing to be able to travel the world. We had hit records in other countries,” she said.
And by the time she was 16, their group, Sister Sledge, had become a household name with their ever-popular disco anthem — “We are family, I’ve got all my sisters and me.”
But their legacy in music goes back generations.
“First word that comes to mind is privileged. I feel privileged to have that in my bloodline,” Sledge said.
Her mother, Florez: a performer. Her father, Edwin: a broadway pioneer.
“The first African American to break barriers on Broadway as a dancer,” she said.
Her grandmother Viola Williams was a trained opera singer and a protege of civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.
“My grandmother was my best friend. She was my road buddy. She went everywhere with us,” Sledge said.
It was their grandmother’s influence that helped catapult Sister Sledge, becoming game-changers themselves.
“We were the first girl group to ever dance full on and have choreography and have movement,” Sledge said. “We set the pace for the Spice Girls, and TLC, and the En Vogues.”READ MORE: A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Longwood Gardens' $250 Million Expansion Project That Gets Underway Today
That passion for creativity now continues with the next generation.
Kristen Lightfoot is Kathy’s daughter,
“I say I grew up backstage,” Lightfoot said.
She’s also part of Kathy’s management team, which found themselves having to shift because of the pandemic.
“I tour with her, and everything got canceled, and I was like, mom, we have to do something from here,” Lightfoot said.
So they started a show on Instagram live. They call it “Family Room.”
Twice a week, thousands of people join them virtually, interacting live from around the world, as they talk about everything — from life to music to how to stay encouraged.
“When we first started this, it was fun and it was something to do and we were talking and connecting with people and just having a good time. As we get these messages, saying that we’re actually helping people and lifting people up, we’re helping them through, even with mental health right now, it’s a major theme,” Lightfoot said.
“My passion is music and it always has been. But I think sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn your purpose,” Sledge said.
In this time of uncertainty, building a new community inspired by the lyrics that still ring true.
“I sang we are family when I was 16 years old, but the purpose of what that song means is now coming full circle,” Sledge said.
Kathy and Kristen are now in talks to have their own T.V. show.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia School District, Teacher's Union To Hold News Conference About Return To In-Person Learning, Sources Say
And by the way, Kathy is a true Philly girl — she grew up in West Philly, graduated from Olney High School and Temple University, and she still lives in the region.