At the close of 2022, American music lost a treasure:
Anita Pointer died at age 74. Alongside her sisters June, Bonnie, and Ruth, she was a founding member of the Pointer Sisters.
The Pointer Sisters are legends. They grew up singing in their West Oakland church under the watchful eye of their parents, who didn’t allow secular music. The girls were secretly fans of the blues and pop music they heard on the radio, however. In 1969, eldest sisters June and Bonnie began the first iteration of The Pointer Sisters by performing jazz and bebop at local clubs. Anita and Ruth soon joined them, and they recorded their debut album, winning a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance for the song Fairytale in 1975. They were also the first Black group invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. In the late 70s, the group took a short break to rest and focus on their families. Their return as a trio marked the beginning of their commercial success. Anita, Ruth, and June were already music industry veterans when they had their biggest pop hits in the mid-’80s. The Pointer Sisters made it through the disco era and out to the other side because they were always chameleons. They had pop, R&B, jazz-funk, soft rock, and other hits in the seventies. When MTV arrived on the scene, their popularity climbed even higher. Songs like Automatic and I’m So Excited lived on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This run lasted until the late 80s when the sisters switched record labels, and the newer albums didn’t chart as high. In 1995, they began touring nationally in the musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’. The sisters continued to enjoy international popularity throughout the 90s and early 2000s. When their beloved sister June passed in 2006, Anita and Ruth added their daughters to the group lineup in order for them to carry on the family legacy. They continued to play to packed audiences until 2016.
Anita Pointer will be sorely missed.
To mark her passing, we’re replaying our 2014 conversation with Ruth and Anita.
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Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.
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