Anita pointerwho rose to fame in the 1970s as a member of the singing group The Siblings Pointer SistersShe passed away on Saturday at the age of 74. The cause of death was not clarified, but her publicist said she died in the midst of her family.
“While we are deeply saddened by the loss of Anita, we are relieved to know that she is now with her daughter, Jada, and her two sisters, John and Bonnie, and at peace,” said a statement jointly attributed to the four closest survivors — a sister Ruth, brothers Aaron and Fritz, and her granddaughter, Roxy McCain Pointer. “She was the one who kept us all close and together for so long. Her love for our family will live on in each and every one of us. Please respect our privacy during this time of grief and loss. Heaven is a beautiful place most lovingly with Anita there.”
Anita was with the Auckland-based group from its formation in 1969 until it was forced to retire for unspecified health reasons in 2015.
The Pointer Sisters had a successful album right out of the gate in 1973 with their self-titled debut release reaching No. 13 on the album chart. Their first hit single was the Allen Toussaint recording “Yes We Can Can”, which narrowly missed the top 10, peaking at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 12 on the R&B chart.
Dropping the nostalgic vibe they had started with, the sisters had their first and only R&B chart hit in 1975 with “How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side)”. It was still a few more years before they cracked the top 10 of the Hot 100, but once they did, the floodgates opened.
This massive pop success began in earnest with a version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire” that reached #2 on the pop chart in 1978. Anita recalled in an interview with Gold mine About the song Springsteen, “I told Richard Berry there was so much vocal in this song that maybe he wanted Ruthie to sing lead because she had such a loud voice, but he said, ‘No. ‘” I want you to sing it. So I did and it became our first gold single and I was thrilled.”
Then during the mid 1980’s the hits kept coming. In 1980, “He’s So Shy” hit No. 3. “Slow Hand” went to No. 2 in 1981. “Neutron Dance” went to No. 6 in 1984, and “Jump (for My Love)” went to No. 3. in the same year. Another hit of the era, “Automatic,” peaked at No. 5 in 1984. “I’m So Excited,” a song with lead vocals for Anita, had been a minor hit for the sisters in 1982, but it was. It was released in remixed form in 1984 and this time it rose to No. 9.
The band also found success on legitimate stage and screen, touring with “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” based on Fats Waller’s song catalog, and appearing in the popular 1976 comedy “Car Wash.”
The streak of pop hits came to an end in the mid-1980s, with the single “Dare Me” charting at No. 11 in 1985 marking the last time the Pointer Sisters reached the top 20. In the 1990s, the sisters had one final charting hit in 2005 with “Christmas in New York”, which reached No. 21 on the adult contemporary chart.
As much as the sisters have been held to No. 2 or 3 in the still-ubiquitous string of hits, they had a brush with No. 1 as featured participants on the 1985 “We Are the World” charity single.
Their biggest single album to date was 1983’s “Break Out”, which was certified three times platinum; It was the LP that included “Neutron Dance”, “Jump” and “Automatic”. In 1984 it was reissued with the new version of Anita-sung and co-written “I’m So Excited” added to the lineup.
The group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994.
The group’s three Grammys include one in the country category, for the 1974 song “Fairytale,” a trivial point that often comes up when discussing the lack of black representation in the genre. Anita explained that the love of country music came naturally to them because they spent summers with relatives in Arkansas, where that was all they heard. “I only remember listening to one radio station in Arkansas,” Anita said. All they played was country music: Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin'” by Tex Ritter and Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Slips Away.” The only time I ever heard of black artists was when I snuck into Local music joints and my ear pressed against the door…. For me all music was good. With country, the short story form really resonated.” The group performed a legendary performance on the Grand Ole Opry in ’74.
Pointer and her brother Fritz have collaborated on a family memoir, “Fairytale,” in 2020.
Two other sisters who had been with the group for most of its existence predated Anita in death – John Pointer in 2006 and Bonnie Pointer in 2020.
Ruth Pointer is the group’s longest-serving member, joining in 1972, three years after June, Bonnie and Anita began performing together. Roth is now touring under the Pointer Sisters banner with two younger members, Isa Pointer, who first joined in 2002, and Sadako Pointer, who joined in 2009. In a 2019 interview, Anita indicated her agreement for the group to continue without her. “They’re putting on some great shows and they’ve been all over the world, without me,” she said. “I worked with Issei and Sadako, so they felt good about what I do until I retired somewhat forced, for health reasons, but Ruthie can still sing powerfully and loves it.”
Pointer’s only daughter, Jada Pointer, who inspired the Pointer Sisters’ 1973 song “Jada”, died of cancer in 2003, after which Anita devoted herself to raising her only grandchild, Roxy.
“This has been a great career. I didn’t plan any of this,” she told Goldmine. In 1969, she recalled: “I was planning on continuing to work as a secretary in a law firm, as I was doing, when I heard Bonnie and Youn sing in the Northern California State Youth Choir, doing ‘Oh Happy Day’ with Edwin Hawkins and Dorothy Morrison, and I just fell in love with it.” So I quit my job and said I had to do that too.”
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