Profile: The Pointer Sisters

The Pointer Sisters, American vocal group that scored a string of pop, dance, and urban contemporary hits in the 1970s and ’80s. The sisters were Ruth Pointer (b. March 19, 1946, Oakland, California, U.S.), Anita Pointer (b. January 23, 1948, Oakland), Bonnie Pointer (b. July 11, 1950, Oakland—d. June 8, 2020, Los Angeles), and June Pointer (b. November 30, 1953, Oakland—d. April 11, 2006, Santa Monica, California).

he group, which initially consisted only of Bonnie and June, began with a series of successful appearances at San Francisco nightclubs in the late 1960s. By 1972 sisters Anita and Ruth had made it a quartet, and their debut album, The Pointer Sisters (1973), spawned their first hit song, “Yes We Can Can.” The group went on to collect the Grammy Award for best country vocal for the crossover hit “Fairytale” (1974), making them the first African American actor to win that category. Steppin’ (1975) yielded the popular songs “How Long (Betcha Got a Chick on the Side)” and “Chainey Do.” Drawing equally from the gospel sound of the Staple Singers and the disco rhythms of Donna Summer, the Pointer Sisters became the model of the post-Motown girl group. Their high point came with the 1983 release Break Out. The triple-platinum album produced a string of hits, and the Pointers collected Grammys for the singles “Automatic” and “Jump (for My Love).”

While each of the sisters experimented with solo careers, none of them achieved success comparable to that of the group, and they faded from the spotlight in the early 1990s. The group continued to perform, notably in a 1995–96 touring production of the musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ (based on the songs of Fats Waller). Ruth Pointer’s daughter Issa and granddaughter Sadako began singing with the Pointer Sisters in the 21st century.

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