The Pointer Sisters Biography
Pointer Sisters are an American R&B group and recording act from Oakland, California that achieved great success during the 1970s and 1980s. Spanning four decades together between 1969 and the recent date, their repertoire has included diverse genres as R&B, jazz, bebop, country, soul, funk, disco/dance and rock.
The group originally comprised four sisters: Ruth, Anita, Bonnie and June. First formed as a quartet, they achieved their greatest success as a trio after Bonnie left the group to commence a solo career.
As children the girls were encouraged to sing gospel music by their parents Reverend Elton and Mrs Sarah Pointer, but in their household they were told rock and roll and the blues were "the devil's music", and it was only when they were away from their watchful parents that they could sing these styles of music. They regularly sang at the church but as they grew older their love of other styles of music began to grow. When June brought home a copy of the Elvis Presley record All Shook Up, she was surprised that her mother allowed her to play it, until she discovered that her mother had been pacified by the "B" side of the Presley record "Crying in The Chapel".
After leaving school it was Bonnie who sought a show business career, and she convinced June to join her to form a duo, "The Pointers - A Pair". Shortly after this, Anita quit her job to join the group. They began touring and performing and provided backing vocals for such artists as Grace Slick, Sylvester, Boz Scaggs and Elvin Bishop, and it was while supporting Bishop at a nightclub appearance that the sisters were signed to a recording deal. The resulting single failed to win an audience but the sisters were enjoying themselves, and the temptation to join them finally overwhelmed Ruth. Before they began to record their first album, the trio had become a quartet.
They agreed that they did not want to follow the current trend of pop music, but wanted to create an original sound that combined jazz, scat and be-bop music. In searching for a visual style they remembered the poverty of their childhood and their mother's ability to improvise, and used their experience to assemble a collection of vintage 1940s clothes from various thrift shops, that would comprise their costumes and give them the distinctive look they were searching for.
They made their debut performance at the Troubador nightclub in Los Angeles in May 1973 and the reaction from the crowd was enthusiastic. Shortly after they made their television debut on The Helen Reddy Show.
In 1977 Bonnie left the group to sign a contract with Motown Records, and this led to a shortlived successful solo career. Her first self-titled album produced the catchy dance tune "Heaven Must Have Sent You". The album was produced by Jeffrey Bowen and Berry Gordy.
Now a trio, the remaining sisters could not contemplate the group continuing in its current style without her so they cut back their schedules and concentrated on raising their families. As they did so, they began talking about the future of the group and what direction it should take. Unsure of what style to follow, they unanimously agreed to dispense with the 1940s nostalgia that had become their image.
They signed with Planet Records, and with producer Richard Perry began working on an album of contemporary music which was released in 1978 with the title Energy. The first single, a cover version of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" climbed to number 2 on the US singles charts, and an upbeat dance song, "Happiness", also charted well.
In 1979 they released an album of cover versions titled Priority, and while it was not a commercial success, it received positive critical reviews.
Over the next few years they achieved their greatest commercial success and continued to demonstrate their versatility. In 1980 the medium tempo dance single, "He's So Shy", reached number three on the charts, and the following year a slow, sultry, country and western flavoured song "Slow Hand" reached number two. "American Music" and "Should I Do It" were 1950s pop, while "I'm So Excited" was a frenetic contemporary dance track. All were significant hits.
In recent years they have maintained a lower public profile but have continued to perform. They entertained US troops in the Persian Gulf in 1991 with Bob Hope. In 1994 they were honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and began touring with a production of the Fats Waller-based musical Ain't Misbehavin'. They were also one of the featured acts at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. In 2004, June Pointer had to leave due to health problems; she was replaced with Ruth's daughter, Issa, and the group continues to perform. They made a 2005 holiday recording "Christmas In New York", featured on YMC Records' Smooth & Soulful Christmas Collection, which peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard AC Charts.
In recent years several Pointer Sisters classics were covered by contemporary artists, such as "Jump (for my love)" by Girls Aloud, which reached number 2 at the UK singles chart, "Dare me" was turned into the dance smash "Stupidisco" by Belgian DJ Junior Jack and in October 2004, indie band Le Tigre covered "I'm So Excited" on their third album, This Island. The Pointer Sisters are also famous for "Pinball Number Count," a number-learning song that they contributed to a Sesame Street animated segment in 1972. In 2005, the song was re-edited for Coldcut's Ninja Tune label, becoming a surprise dance hit.
The band is currently experiencing a successful revival in Europe due to their performance at the annual Night of the Proms, a highly successful series of concerts combining pop and classical music, taking place in the Benelux, France and Germany. In 2004 the Pointer Sisters received the highest audience ratings of all participating Night of the Proms acts. In addition, their collaboration with Belgian pop star Natalia on "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves," placed them on the charts in Europe (the single peaked at #2 in the Belgian charts) and resulted in ten sold out concerts in Antwerp in January 2006.
On June 7th, 2006, Anita guest-starred on Celebrity Duets singing with Olympic gymnast Carly Patterson on "I'm So Excited".
On April 11, 2006, June Pointer died of cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California. According to an official family statement she was surrounded by her sisters Ruth and Anita as well as brothers Aaron and Fritz at the time of her passing.