The Pointer Sisters

The Pointer Sisters

Infobox musical artist 2
Name = The Pointer Sisters
Background = group_or_band

Img_capt =
Alias = Pointers - A Pair
Origin = Oakland, California, United States
Genre = R&B, soul, pop, dance, rock, Jazz, country
Years_active = 1969–present
Label = Atlantic
Blue Thumb
Current_members = Anita Pointer
Ruth Pointer
Issa Pointer
Past_members = Bonnie Pointer
June Pointer

The Pointer Sisters are an American Grammy Award-winning Pop/R&B recording act from Oakland, California that achieved mainstream success during the 1970s and 1980s. Spanning over three decades together, their repertoire has included diverse genres as pop music, disco, jazz, bebop, country, soul, funk, dance, new wave and rock.

The group had its early origins when sisters June and Bonnie Pointer began performing in 1969 (without a record deal) as "Pointers, a Pair". The line-up grew to a quartet when Anita Pointer joined, followed by Ruth, who joined in December, 1972, right before they recorded their debut album. They achieved their greatest commercial success later as a trio consisting of Anita, June, and Ruth, after Bonnie left the group to commence a solo career.


Early days

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 Ruth was already married with two children Faun (born 1965) and Malik (born 1966), Anita also was married with a child Jada, but it was Bonnie who sought a show business career, and she convinced June to join her to form a duo, "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 James, Boz Scaggs and Elvin Bishop, and it was while supporting Bishop at a nightclub appearance that the sisters were signed to a recording deal with Atlantic Records in 1971. The resulting singles that came from their Atlantic tenure failed to win an audience but the sisters were enjoying themselves, and the temptation to join them finally overwhelmed Ruth in December, 1972. Before they began to record their first album, the trio had become a quartet, in which afterwards they signed with David Rubinson's Blue Thumb record label.

Upon signing, 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.

In 1972, they were asked to record Pinball Number Count, a series of educational cartoons, teaching kids how to count. It made its debut on Sesame Street in 1977 and was a feature on Sesame Street for many years.

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".

First success as recording artists

Their self titled first album, was released in 1973 and received positive reviews, with the group being lauded for their versatility and originality. The first single from it, a funk cover of "Yes We Can Can", reached number 11 on the pop charts, and would go on to establish itself as an R&B classic. The Allen Toussaint penned song had been a small R&B hit for Lee Dorsey in 1970. The album's second single was a cover of Willie Dixon's Blues stomper "Wang Dang Doodle". It reached the R&B top 40 and the group's thrift shop style began to catch on with fans, many of whom would attend their shows in similar attire.

The following year they released their second album titled "That's a Plenty". It continued in the jazz and be-bop style of its predecessor but provided one exception that caused a great deal of interest. The song "Fairytale" written by Anita and Bonnie was a country song, and reached number 13 on the pop charts, and number 37 on the country charts. Based on this success the group was invited to Nashville, Tennessee where they achieved the rare distinction of becoming the first black female singers to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. In 1975 the group won a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Fairytale" , and Anita and Bonnie were nominated as songwriters for the Grammy Award for Best Country Song. The song would later be covered by acts such as Elvis Presley.

Their third album, and arguably best, was released in 1975. "Steppin'" produced their Grammy-nominated number one R&B single, "How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side)", which was later sampled by female rap icons Salt 'N' Pepa a decade later. They also scored another R&B hit from the album with "Going Down Slowly", a further Allen Toussaint cover, and in 1976 appeared in the classic blaxploitation film "Car Wash". "You Gotta Believe" from the movie made the R&B top 20 in early 1977.

Their last album as a quartet was the Jazz/Funk album "Having a Party", released in 1977. Although a later favorite of the group's fan base, it sold poorly due to a lack of promotion from both ABC/Blue Thumb and the departing Sisters. It did feature the Bonnie led "Don't It Drive You Crazy" which would become a cult hit in the UK in the new millennium.

The quartet becomes a trio

By 1977, both Bonnie and June had left the group. Bonnie had married Motown Producer Jeffrey Bowen in 1978. Subsequently Bonnie went on to sign a contract with Motown Records, and this led to a brief successful solo career. Her first self-titled album produced the Disco classic "Heaven Must Have Sent You". The album was produced by her husband at the time Jeffrey Bowen and Berry Gordy in 1978. The song became a top 20 pop hit on September 1,1979.

On January 22, 1978, Ruth had given birth to her second daughter, and now a duo, the remaining sisters Ruth and Anita 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.On July 23,1978, June married a man named William Oliver Whitmore II.

They signed with producer Richard Perry's Planet label, distributed by Elektra Records. After inviting her to contribute vocals on the group's cover of Sly Stone's "Everybody Is A Star", Richard Perry convinced June Pointer to return to the group. With Perry the trio began working on an album of west coast soft rock which was released in 1978 with the title "Energy". The first single, a cover version of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" climbed to number two on the US singles charts in early 1979, and a third Allen Toussaint cover, "Happiness", also charted well.

In 1979 they released an album with a harder edged Rock sound titled "Priority", and while it was not a huge commercial success, it received very positive critical reviews and further strengthened the group's reputation for being truly versatile.

The height of their success

Over the next few years they achieved their greatest commercial success and continued to demonstrate their versatility. In 1980 the soulful pop single, "He's So Shy", reached number three on the charts, and the following year a slow, sultry, country and western flavoured ballad, "Slow Hand", reached number two. The follow-up, "Should I Do It" was classic girl-group. Perry switched distribution of Planet to RCA in 1982. The first release from this new union was "American Music", a patriotic themed modernised take on the girl-group sound while "I'm So Excited" was an influential frenetic dance track. All these singles were significant hits in the US and were also successful in Australia, where all but "American Music" reached the Top 20.

In 1983, the Pointer Sisters released what became their biggest-selling album ever with "Break Out". In 1983 Ruth had also become a grandmother for the first time. With the advent of MTV the sisters were able to exploit their visual style and extend their audience. In 1984 they achieved four Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles in a row. "Automatic" reached #5; "Jump (for My Love)" reached #3; a remix of "I'm So Excited" was added to the album almost a year into its shelf life and reached #9; and another single from the album, "Neutron Dance", also featured on the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack, reached #6.

"I Need You" had been the lead single from the album, and was a significant R&B hit, peaking at #13 on the Black Singles charts. The album's last single, "Baby Come And Get It," did well on the Black Singles charts too but missed cracking the pop Top 40 by a hair. (It would be brought to life again in the next millennium through its use in Burger King television commercials.) They received Grammy Awards for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Jump (For My Love)", and Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices for "Automatic". These songs also followed "Slow Hand" into the UK Top 10, with "Automatic" peaking at number 2 in that country.

These Planet singles marked the end of their run of Top 10 hits in the US, with their subsequent RCA releases "Dare Me" in 1985 (the Sisters' last Australian Top 10 hit), and "Goldmine" in 1986, reaching numbers 11 and 33 respectively. In 1985 Ruth had become a grandmother for the second time.

The sisters eventually left RCA Records to record for Motown and SBK, releasing several group albums and individual solo albums along the way, but these projects did not achieve the level of success they had earlier attained.

ubsequent years

In recent years they have maintained a lower public profile but have continued to perform.Anita had become a grandmother for the first time in 1990 to a girl named Roxie. Roxie is from Anita's only child Jada.On September 8th 1990 Ruth married a man named Michael Sayles (Born 1957). The sisters entertained US troops in the Persian Gulf in 1991 with Bob Hope. By 1991, June Pointer had ended her thirteen year marriage to William Oliver Whitmore II. In August, 1993 at age 47 Ruth Pointer gave birth to twins Ali and Conor Sayles. 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'". In 1995 Pointer Sisters recorded "Feel For The Physical" as a duet with Thomas Anders (of Modern Talking fame) for his album " Souled". 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 by 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. The sisters were inducted to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005.

In recent years many Pointer Sisters songs were covered by contemporary artists, such as "Jump (for My Love)" by Girls Aloud, which reached number two at the UK singles chart in 2003, "Dare Me" was turned into the dance smash "Stupidisco" by Belgian DJ Junior Jack, indie band Le Tigre covered in 2004 "I'm So Excited" on their third album "This Island", and French DJ Muttonheads sampled "Back In My Arms" on his 2005 club hit "I'll Be There". Most recently in 2007, Tommy Boy recording artist Ultra Naté has released a dance-pop cover of "Automatic" that reached #1 at the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts. In 2005, "Pinball Number Count" was re-edited for Coldcut's Ninja Tune label, becoming a surprise dance hit. The same song has also been remixed by Venetian Snares of the Planet Mu record label.

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. The group received the highest audience ratings of all participating Night of the Proms acts in 2002. In addition, their collaboration with Belgian pop star Natalia on "Sisters Are Doin' 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 dates in Antwerp in January 2006 with the "Natalia Meets The Pointer Sister" concerts, selling out 130.000 tickets for the 10 date concert run.

On June 7th, 2006, Anita guest-starred on "Celebrity Duets" singing with Olympic gymnast Carly Patterson on "I'm So Excited".

Vice City Dance

In , The Malibu club in the game featured a Village people tribute in which they danced to "Automatic". This dance involved the dancers crossing the hands by their knees for two beats then raising the roof for another two. This has subsequently gained a cult following.

Tragedy and Controversy

In November 2000, the sisters lost their beloved mother Sarah; in 2003, sister Anita lost her only child Jada to cancer. Jada was the subject of The Pointer Sisters 1975 song "Jada".On April 11, 2006, June Pointer died of lung 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 Pointer and Fritz. On May 4, 2006, sister Bonnie appeared on Entertainment Tonight saying the other sisters had not fulfilled the burial wishes for June, instead having her cremated because it was cheaper. Bonnie also stated the sisters had not let her ride in the family car at the funeral. Anita and Ruth responded that Bonnie had demanded to be let back in the group and was upset that she had not been allowed to, and that June had left no instructions for her burial. The sisters seemed estranged from Bonnie until she joined Anita Pointer on the Idol Radio Show in 2007. That show is archived at


US, UK and Australian Top 40 singles

The following singles reached the Top 40 of either the United States pop singles chart, the United States R&B singles chart, the United Kingdom pop singles chart, or the Australian ARIA charts.

*1The song did not chart on its original UK 1983 issue but was reissued in 1984 after Automatic and Jump (for my love) became top 10 hits.

The Billboard Pop chart is compiled with points awarded for both sales and airplay whereas the Cash Box chart reflected sales only.

US and UK Top 40 albums

*1973: "The Pointer Sisters" (#13 Pop/#3 R&B)
*1974: "That's a Plenty" (#33 R&B)
*1974: "Live at the Opera House" (#29 R&B)
*1975: "Steppin'" (#22 Pop/#3 R&B)
*1976: "The Best of the Pointer Sisters" (#33 R&B)
*1977: "Having a Party"
*1978: "Energy" (#13 Pop/#9 R&B)
*1980: "Special Things" (#34 Pop/#19 R&B)
*1981: "Black & White" (#12 Pop/#9 R&B/#21 UK)
*1982: "So Excited!" (#24 R&B)
*1983: "Break Out" (#8 Pop/#6 R&B/#9 UK)
*1985: "Contact" (#24 Pop/#11 R&B/#34 UK)
*1986: "Hot Together" (#39 R&B)
*1989: "Jump: The Best of the Pointer Sisters" (#11 UK)


ee also

*List of number-one dance hits (United States)
*List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart

External links

* [ The Pointer Sisters Forum] Unofficial Fan Forum & Blog
* [ Classic Tracks: The Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can Can"] , by Blair Jackson, March 1, 2006, "Mix" magazine. Detailed story about musicians, producers, and history of creating the Pointer Sisters' first major hit. Accessed February 12, 2008.
* [ Pointer Sisters & Thomas Anders]
* [ Pointer Sisters] fan page on Bebo.

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