Group Biography (Full) Continued On to the Present

colorain2 page 4Over the next few years, Ruth, Anita and June continued to charge on. In 1994, they teamed up with Clint Black to record a cover of "Chain of Fools" for MCA's Rhythm, Country & Blues, which was certified platinum. That same year, a massive crowd swarmed to Hollywood Boulevard to see the Pointers finally receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an event that inspired town officials to proclaim it "Pointer Sisters Day" in Hollywood. That same day, it was announced that the group would once again don feather boas and platform heels and begin a world-wide tour of the Fats Waller musical "Ain't Misbehavin'. " They toured with the show for 46 weeks and recorded a cast album that was hailed by critics. The sisters went on to be honored on the Soul of American Music Awards and were also inducted into the Soul Train Hall of Fame. In 1996, they were one of the legendary acts that performed at the closing ceremony of the Olympics in Atlanta, and the group was saluted with Fire--The Very Best of the Pointer Sisters, a 36-song anthology that chronicled the sisters' career, from "Don't Try to Take the Fifth" all the way to the RCA years.

Today, Ruth Pointer, along with her daughter and granddaughter maintain a busy touring schedule and perform all over the world. Best of all, Ruth and Anita can look back on a career that has been filled with endless applause, countless awards and legendary performances. And though that career has now spanned over 40 years, the excitement continues on!  "We all like showing off too much to stop," June told a reporter in 1997. "Honestly, all I've ever done in my life is entertain . . . I feel like God has given us a gift, and it's our job to share it with the world."


By: Paul Ciulla & Lance Debler





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Group Biography (Full) Continued On

pointers85 page 3A year later, the Pointers released Priority, which consisted entirely of cover songs by high-profile rock acts. It didn't garner as much attention as its predecessor, but it again proved that the Pointer Sisters could master any musical style--and harmonize like no one else, as evidenced by standouts such as "Dreaming As One." In 1980, the group released their third Planet album, the gold-certified  Special Things; it featured the song "Where Did The Time Go," dedicated to their father, Elton, who had passed away in 1979. Anita wrote the title cut and also co-penned "Could I Be Dreaming," which made it to the pop charts, but it was "He's So Shy" that became the album's biggest hit by climbing to #3 and mining gold. In 1981, the group hit it big again with Black & White, which included one of the biggest hits of the year, the Anita-led "Slow Hand." The single topped out at #2 on the Billboard charts, and its instructional lyrics geared toward men who "come and go in a heated rush" became an anthem for women across the country. Next up, "Should I Do It" climbed to #13, and the Black & White album was certified gold. In 1982, the group released So Excited; its first single, "American Music," hit #16, while the follow-up, "I'm So Excited," reached #30.

Early in 1983, June made a move on her own: she released her first solo album, entitled Baby Sister, on Planet Records. The record's first single, "Ready for Some Action," garnered some play on R&B radio, but more importantly, the record's funkier tracks perhaps laid ground for the sisters' next album as a group. Alas, the title of that record summed up exactly what the trio was about to do: Break Out. Upon its release, Stereo Review called the new album "the Pointer Sisters at their sassiest, brassiest, uptempo best." Its first single was "I Need You," a smooth R&B ballad that boasted the tender harmonies of all three sisters--but when Ruth took the lead for "Automatic," her deeper-than-deep vocals practically leapt off the vinyl, and helped the single go all the way to #5.

By now, the video music era had arrived, and with the clip for Break Out's third single, "Jump (for my Love)," the Pointer Sisters landed all over MTV, becoming one of the first black acts to be played in heavy rotation. Boosted by June's energetic vocal, "Jump" raced to #3 on the pop charts. When it came time to release a fourth single, record company executives, who were never happy with "I'm So Excited's" chart performance, decided to resurrect the track and give it another shot at the top. In its resuscitated life, the single finally hit the Top 10 and became a Pointer classic; it was added to the Break Out album over a year into its shelf life. Soon, Paramount Pictures came knocking on the doors of Planet Records, asking for permission to include Break Out's "Neutron Dance" in their upcoming film, Beverly Hills Cop, starring Eddie Murphy. Planet and the Pointer Sisters agreed, and "Neutron Dance," featuring Ruth's gospel-spiked shouts, rose to #6 on the pop charts as its video dominated MTV. Finally, Break Out spawned a sixth single, "Baby Come And Get It," powered by June's sexually charged, raucous vocal. The success of the album earned the sisters two Grammy Awards (Best Vocal by a Duo or Group for "Jump" and Best Vocal Arrangement for "Automatic) and two American Music Awards. Eventually, Break Out was certified triple-platinum, making it the biggest selling album of the Pointer Sisters' career.

While Anita, Ruth and June toured heavily and made countless television appearances,the group made a move to RCA Records, which released the Contact album in 1985. The set's first single, "Dare Me," hit #11 and was accompanied by another stylish video that established the Pointers as trendsetters for a whole new generation. Within three weeks of its release, Contact was certified platinum, and the group went on to win another American Music Award for Best Video Group.

In late 1986, the Pointers released their second album on RCA, Hot Together, which spawned a top 40 hit with "Goldmine." The Pointers helped promote the album in January '87 by hitting prime time with their first television network special, "Up All Night," featured Ruth, Anita and June touring Los Angeles night spots with guest stars Whoopi Goldberg, Bruce Willis and The McGuire Sisters. Later that year, the Pointers went back to Beverly Hills with Eddie Murphy; this time, they contributed "Be There" to the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop II. The single hit the upper half of Billboard's pop chart and helped the soundtrack album attain multi-platinum status.

In 1987, Anita became the second sister to release a solo album: Love For What It Is was preceded by the single "Overnight Success," which hit the upper half of the R&B charts. A year later, she and her sisters veered away from the glossier pop of their recent releases and debuted a harder street edge with Serious Slammin', their final album for RCA Records. Immediately, fans and critics hailed it as the strongest of the sisters' four releases for RCA. People magazine, for one, proclaimed the album a "delight" and called the Pointers "the best R&B female group of the '80s."

But despite such praise, the Pointer Sisters felt it was time for a change. They'd spent the last 10 years working with Richard Perry, their contract with RCA had run its course, and a new decade was on the horizon. Starting fresh yet again, the sisters parted ways with Perry and signed with Motown Records. As a solo artist, June signed with Columbia Records, which released her second solo album, simply titled June Pointer, in the summer of 1989.

In 1990, the Pointers released their debut on Motown, Right Rhythm, which featured a mixture of hip-hop, street sounds and their trademark harmonies. It was the first time the sisters served as executive producers; they also contributed to the writing, something they hadn't done in several years. The album's percolating first single, "Friends Advice (Don't Take It)," hit the top 40 on the R&B charts. A second release, the ballad "After You," didn't make much impact on the charts, but a remix of "Insanity" by Steve "Silk" Hurley, took the club world by storm and peaked at #11 on Billboard's dance charts.

Nineteen ninety-three marked the Pointer Sisters 20th year in the recording industry, and they helped celebrate the anniversary with a new album, entitled Only Sisters Can Do That, on SBK Records. All three sisters wrote material for the album, including the title track, which the Pointers penned together. Other stand-outs on the album included "It Ain't a Man's World," which incorporated the poetry of Maya Angelou, and "I Want Fireworks," a gospel-tinged ballad that was propelled by Anita's soulful lead vocal. Once again, fans and critics alike sang the record's praises--Entertainment Weekly, for one, called Only Sisters "catchier than En Vogue or Janet Jackson" and proclaimed it "the catchiest Sisters set since 1984's hit-packed Break Out."

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Group Biography (Full) Continued

all4sisters3As the Pointers began preparing to record their debut album, they made one firm decision: record executives be damned, they'd sing the kind of music they wanted to sing, and that meant eschewing the sounds on Top 40 radio and recording an album comprised of jazz, scat and be-bop. Moving full-steam ahead, they began writing jazz material for the album, but there was still one problem: the group needed performance clothes, but with no extra cash in sight, designer costumes were out of the question. Looking for ideas, the Pointers recalled how their parents had managed to clothe six children on such a tight budget--and in the process, they came up with an ingenious idea: once again, they'd hit the thrift stores, and sing their new songs in old threads. Following the fads of the 1940s, the girls stocked their closets with floral dresses, wide-brimmed hats, feathered boas, knotted pearls and platform shoes, and the original Pointer Sisters' style was born.

"It was the perfect way for us to dress, because it fit the type of music we were singing, and above all, it was cheap," June says. With all the pieces coming together, the Pointers began rehearsing their new numbers. Sometimes, they practiced up to five hours a day, working to perfect their style and sense of timing--and trying to become, as Ruth put it, "finger lickin' good." Finally, they got a chance to debut the new act in May of 1973. When an act canceled its scheduled performance at the famous Troubadour club in Los Angeles, David Rubinson swiftly got the Pointers onto the bill.

"We didn't even know how to give a show, but it was Judgment Day," Ruth told Newsweek magazine in 1973. "We just shook everything we could shake." And shake it they did--decked out in their '40s thrift shop apparel, the Pointers took the stage one by one, hanging umbrellas, feather boas and furs on an old-fashioned coat rack and immediately tearing into Lambert, Hendrick and Ross' "Cloudburst." They began scatting at a supersonic pace, and for the next glorious two hours, the sisters sang, sweat, shouted and testified through a scorching set of jazz, scat, rock, gospel and be-bop. By the time the Pointers left the stage, hysteria had taken over the Troubador audience, and amid stamping, cheering and whistling, the sisters were called back for several encores.

The performance set Los Angeles abuzz, and within weeks, the group made its first television appearance on The Helen Reddy Show. When the Pointer Sisters' self-titled album was released, the buzz became almost deafening--critics raved about its versatility and range and called the Pointers "the most exciting thing to hit show business in years."

Eventually, "Yes We Can, Can," the record's first single, reached #11 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart; a second single, "'Wang Dang Doodle," written by Willie Dixon, also charted. By the time the album was certified gold, the group had become the most talked-about new act of the year. Even their sense of style became infectious--before long, concert attendees began showing up in their own thrift-shop attire. By summer's end, the Pointer Sisters had become, as Bonnie quipped, "the biggest thing to come out of Oakland since the Black Panthers."

The following year, the sisters released their sophomore effort, That's A Plenty. The album contained the Pointers now-famous array of musical styles--but this time, there was one difference: nestled between the finger-snapping jazz of "Little Pony" and the moody scat of "Black Coffee" was a bona-fide country-western tune, the Anita- and Bonnie-penned "Fairytale." When the single hit it big on the country charts (and pop, for that matter), Nashville came 'a calling, and before long, the sisters became the first black females to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. But despite the group's increasing fame, it was still an era long before MTV, and many Nashvillers still hadn't actually seen the group. As the sisters have recalled in countless interviews, the Opry show didn't go off without at least one hitch: "We got onstage to sing the song, and a guy from the audience stood up and said, 'Well, hot damn, them gals is black!' " Anita laughs. And despite being the toast of the town, that lack of visibility caused other problems in Opryland as well--ones not surprising to four young black women exploring unchartered terrain. "When we first performed at the Grand Ole Opry, the audiences loved us," Anita recalls. "But at the hotel where there was a party for us, the staff assumed we were the hired help and directed us toward the back door."

Undeterred, the Pointers kept charging on--in late '74, they became the first pop act to perform at the San Francisco Opera House; tape recorders were running during the legendary performance, and Live at the Opera House was released that fall. In 1975, "Fairytale" won the sisters their first Grammy award, for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group (Anita and Bonnie were also nominated for songwriters of the year); later, The King himself, Elvis Presley, covered the tune. That year, the Pointers released their fourth album for Blue Thumb. Entitled Steppin', the record included "How Long (Betcha Got A Chick On The Side)"; co-written by Anita and Bonnie, it went Top 20 on the pop charts and sailed all the way to #1 on R&B. "Going Down Slowly" also scored well on the R&B charts. But soon, it became clear that mere vinyl wasn't enough to contain the Pointer Sisters, and in 1976, the group hit the big screen, joining Richard Pryor in the film, Car Wash. "You Gotta Believe," which was featured on the film's soundtrack, rose up the R&B charts. During this time the Pointers made appearances on the popular children's television show, Sesame Street. Their performances of "Hush Little Baby", "The Alphabet Song" and especially "Pinball Number Count" were replayed often. "Pinball Number Count" became extremely popular and is a fond childhood memory for a generation of viewers.

But despite such upward movement, trouble was brewing in the Pointer household. By 1976, June had dropped out of several performances due to reported health problems, and Bonnie was contemplating a solo career. In 1977, the Pointers released Having A Party, their last album for Blue Thumb. That year, much to her sisters' dismay, Bonnie left the group and signed with Motown Records. "We were devastated," Anita recalled in a 1990 interview. "We did a show the night she left, but after that, we just stopped. We thought it wasn't going to work without Bonnie." Reeling from their sister's departure, the Pointers cut back their touring schedule and contemplated the future. Both Anita and June mulled solo albums (Anita actually recorded one for ABC Records, but it never saw the light of day), while Ruth gave birth to her third child. But eventually, the stage called again, and the Pointer Sisters regrouped as a threesome.

Starting virtually from scratch, the Pointers faced an imposing question: what now? One answer was obvious: they'd throw away their nostalgia image, because, despite their achievements, the sisters had begun to feel stifled by their earlier success as a jazz act--and the image that they say David Rubinson pushed to continue. "The nostalgia thing got to be artistically frustrating after awhile," Anita told Rolling Stone magazine in April 1979. "In the beginning, thrift-store clothes were all we could afford, but then the clothes began dictating the style of music. David saw it as a gimmick we should use, but a lot of time, I felt really weird. It's hard to be sincere with a pile of fruit on your head."

In an effort to change their style, the sisters signed with Planet Records and teamed up with Richard Perry, a well-known producer who had previously worked with such artists as Barbara Streisand and Carly Simon. Together, they decided to obliterate the past and record a rock 'n roll album. "When Bonnie left the group, we decided we wanted a new direction so people wouldn't miss her, so we got new clothes, a new look, new music, new record producer, new everything," Anita told a reporter in 1986. The change worked: the group's debut single, Bruce Springsteen's "Fire," went all the way to #2 on the pop charts and went gold. Surprisingly, the Sisters say that it's their one hit song that they thought would never make it to the top. "We didn't even know who Bruce Springsteen was at the time," Ruth recalled in a 1997 interview. And Anita was especially hesitant about releasing "Fire" as a single. "I didn't even expect to sing lead on it," she said years later. "It sounded like a low, Ruth-type song to me. We certainly didn't expect it to become a hit." But happily, the sisters were wrong. Boosted by "Fire," the Energy album was certified gold and went on to spawn another top single with "Happiness."

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Remembering June Pointer


June Antoinette Pointer was born November 30, 1953 at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California to Rev. Elton and Sarah Pointer. She attended Edison Elementary School, Elmhurst Junior High and Castlemont High School and received an honorary Bachelor of Arts degree from Bishop College. Always precocious, at the tender age of sixteen, June left high school and joined her sister, Patricia "Bonnie" Pointer, to form the singing group, Pointers - A Pair.

Coming of age during the tumultuous 1960's, June's social and political consciousness evolved into an early awareness of the ability of music to entertain, uplift and transform. June sang with a power anchored in and infused with the deep conviction and content of a rigorous spiritual household.

In early 1969, Anita joined June and Bonnie to form The Pointer Sisters. Ruth joined her sisters in 1973, completing this quartet of unmatched angelic harmony. June's voice has been described as unrestrained, exuberant, soulful, wicked, wild and truthful. With her sisters, for the next 37 years, June toured America and the world bringing joy to millions and recorded 17 albums, in addition to two solo albums. She performed for four U.S. Presidents, Prime Ministers of Europe, and venues from Disneyland and the San Francisco Opera House to Roseland and Carnegie Hall in New York City, to name a few. She also performed on national television shows such as "American Bandstand," "Soul Train," "Grand Ole Opry," "The Flip Wilson Show," "The Carol Burnett Show," "Johnny Carson," "Arsenio Hall" and "Jay Leno," as well as "Up All Night" with Bruce Willis and Whoopi Goldberg and the American classic, "Car Wash," with Richard Pryor. She was a recipient of major music awards, including: three Grammys, three American Music Awards, five gold records, one platinum and one multi-platinum record. She was also a recipient of a NAACP Image Award, MTV, Bay Area Blues Society, Billie Holiday Jazz Awards (Paris, France) and numerous other accolades. Having eclectic musical taste, June sang with Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Clint Black, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Loggins, Rod Stewart, Elvin Bishop and Kenny Rogers. June and The Pointer Sisters were honored by receiving a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994, and toured the country performing in the musical "Ain't Misbehavin'" from 1995 through 1996.

June's energy, love of life and people, inspired international hits like: "I'm So Excited," "Fire," "Jump (For My Love)," "He's So Shy" and "Happiness." Her enthusiasm and love of music, combined with an infectious laugh and sense of humor, made her a joy to friends and family. June loved McDonald's cheeseburgers and Orange Crush, Halloween and birthdays.

June will be missed; especially, by her big sisters, Ruth, Anita and Bonnie; her big brothers, Aaron and Fritz; her sisters-in-law, Leona and Liziwe; her brother-in-law, Michael Sayles; cousins, Paul Silas and Leon Silas Jr.; her nieces, Barbara-Carol, Faun, Yvonne, Nandi, Issa, Onika, Sadako, Sarah-Anita, Roxie, Ali, Michelle, Adrienne and Lil' Jadah; her nephews, Derek, Malik, Shegun, Deron, Somori, Thiyane, Bryant, Jacob, Conor and Sean; and a host of friends and people around the world she loved and who love her.

June passed away peacefully at 1:10PM, April 11, 2006. Like a baby returns to the lap of her mother, June rested in the arms of Ruth and Anita in her final hours of life with brothers Aaron and Fritz by her side. Our angel has gone to sleep with the angels.

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