So much Internet information already exists about these soul singing siblings. For that reason we will cover just some highlights that try to encapsulate the journey of this very versatile / eclectic group of ladies who sustained a steady presence on the R&B, club, and adult contemporary charts for at least 20 years.
From their early ‘70s releases on the Blue Thumb label through their ‘80s commercial run on Planet and RCA, the Pointer Sisters moved through boogie-woogie, bebop, blues, country, funk, disco, soft rock, electro-pop, hard rock, and several other subgenres as if they were all second nature.
The Pointer sisters
1974 / Fairytale / a Country song / featuring Bonnie Pointer on lead vocal
1975 / “How Long (Betcha Got a Chick On The Side)“
1981 / “Fire“
1981 / “Slow Hand” /
1984 / “Jump (For My Love)“ / Break Out Planet Records
1985 / I’m So Excited / MDA Telethon
US and UK Top 20 singles
The following 13 singles reached the Top 20 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. Five also reached the top 20 of the United Kingdom UK Singles Chart. [Wikipedia Links]
- 1973: “Yes We Can Can” (US #11)
- 1974: “Fairytale” (US #13)
- 1975: “How Long (Betcha’ Got a Chick on the Side)” (US #20)
- 1979: “Fire” (US #2)
- 1980: “He’s So Shy” (US #3)
- 1981: “Slow Hand” (US #2; UK #10)
- 1982: “Should I Do It” (US #13)
- 1982: “American Music” (US #16)
- 1984: “Automatic” (US #5; UK #2)
- 1984: “Jump (For My Love)” (US #3; UK #6)
- 1984: “I’m So Excited” (remix) (US #9; UK #11)
- 1984: “Neutron Dance” (US #6)
- 1985: “Dare Me” (US #11; UK #17)
They developed their love for various forms of secular music through visits and slumber parties at the homes of friends, where they could listen to music and watch programs like American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show.
It was in 1969 Bonnie and youngest sister June began singing together in their father’s West Oakland Church of God in Oakland, California. They formed the Pointers (otherwise known as the Pair). When Anita joined the duo that same year, they changed their name to the Pointer Sisters.
They provided background vocals for a number of recording artists, including Grace Slick, Boz Scaggs, and Sylvester.
While performing with pianist Walter Bishop, they caught the eyes and ears of the Atlantic label, who released the Pointer Sisters’ first two singles: 1971’s “Don’t Try to Take the Fifth” and the following year’s “Destination No More Heartaches.” Neither song charted, but the abundant potential was obvious.
1971 / young Pointer Sisters/ Don’t Try To Take The Fifth / Their 1st Single /Atlantic label
In 1971 that the sisters were signed to a recording contract with Atlantic Records. The resulting singles that came from their Atlantic tenure failed to become hits but, nevertheless, the sisters were enjoying their fledgling recording career. One recording, however, has become a Northern Soul classic: “Send Him Back” (Atlantic 45 2893).
In December 1972, they recruited oldest sister Ruth and released their debut album, entitled “The Pointer Sisters” in 1973.
First success as recording artists
Starting in the Jazz genre, the Pointer Sisters recorded these very free-wheeling albums.
In 1973 the Sisters’ self-titled first album was released. Studio session musicians for Blue Thumb recording were non other than the Bay Area Blues-Funk band, the amazing, original Hoodoo Rhythm Devils
This debut album received strong reviews, with the group being lauded for their versatility and originality: its first single “Yes We Can Can” – an Allen Toussaint-penned song reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100,
The Pointer Sisters “thrift shop” style of dresses also made them fan favorites; many audience members of the group’s live shows being dressed similarly to the group’s members.
Between 1973 and 1977, the Pointers donned 1940s fashions and sang in a style reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters. Their music included R&B, funk, rock and roll, gospel, country and soul.
In 1974, the most successful song of all at that time of their career was “Fairytale,” a Bonnie- and Anita-penned departure into country music that peaked at number 13 on the Hot 100.
“Fairytales” enabled the Pointers to perform at the Grand Ole Opry — as the first African-American vocal group to do so — and the song also won the 1974 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
The Pointer Sisters’ second album, on the Blue Thumb label in 1974, That’s a Plenty, continued in the jazz and be-bop style of its predecessor.
Jazz-oriented tracks included the sensational, very musical “Salt Peanuts” (see 1975 LIVE video below), and “Black Coffee“, a very bluesy, steamy song featuring Bonnie Pointer
Steppin’ is the third studio album by the Pointer Sisters, released in 1975 on the ABC/Blue Thumb label.
Track #1 / “How Long (Betcha’ Got a Chick on the Side)” (US #20)
This funky track was the Pointer Sisters’ only #1 R&B hit. Co-written by Anita and Bonnie Pointer along with David Rubinson, the song introduced the catchphrase “Chick on the side” to a mass audience.
Track #7 / “Wanting Things” / ballad / by Bert Bacharach and Hal David
1975 LIVE / Pointer Sisters (Ruth, Anita, Bonnie, June) / In memory of BONNIE POINTER who went on to Glory June 8, 2020 / This 30 minute cut really shows all the versatility of the Sisters going from R&B to Country to jazz.
1978 / Album: Energy / Planet Label / West Coast Soft Rock
Track #2 / “Dirty Work” / by Walter Becker and Donald Fegan (Steely Dan)
Track #3 / “Hypnotized” / by Bob Welch
Track #7 / “Fire” / by Bruce Springsteen / (US #2)
The height of their success
1980 / Single / “He’s So Shy” / (US #3)
1981 / 8th Studio Album / Black & White / Planet label
Track #4 / “Slow Hand” / by Michael Clark and John Bettis / (US #2; UK #10)
Track #9 / “Should I Do It” / / (US #13)
1982 / 9th Studio Album / So Excited! /
Track #1 / “I’m So Excited” / by Anita Pointer, June Pointer, Ruth Pointer, Trevor Lawrence / (US #9; UK #11)
1983 / Album / Break Out / album with the most big hits
With the advent of MTV, videos of the Sisters’ songs began to be played in heavy rotation.
Track #2 / “Automatic” / (US #5; UK #2)
Track #4 / “I’m So Excited” / (remix) (US #9; UK #11)
Track #5 / “Neutron Dance” / (US #6)
1985 / Single / “Dare Me” / RCA label
This marked the end of their run of Top 10 Hits.in the U.S.
The sisters eventually left RCA Records to record for Motown and then SBK, releasing several group albums and individual solo albums along the way, but these projects did not achieve the level of success of their earlier work.
In November 2000, the sisters lost their mother Sarah.
In 2003, sister Anita lost her only child Jada to cancer. Jada was the subject of the 1973 song “Jada“.
On April 11, 2006, June, who suffered from drug addiction, died of lung cancer at the age of 52.
On November 18, 2011, Bonnie was arrested for allegedly possessing crack cocaine in South Los Angeles, after the car she was riding in was pulled over for a mechanical malfunction. She filed for divorce from Motown Records producer, Jeffrey Bowen, on July 1, 2014. On June 8, 2020, she died at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 69.
Their website: https://www.thepointersisters.com/
Interview with Ruth Pointer
An in-depth interview with Ruth Pointer, member of the legendary Grammy Award winning group, the Pointer Sisters. Ruth shares her battles with drug addiction as told in her book, “Still So Excited“.
US and UK Top 40 albums
- 1973: The Pointer Sisters (US #13)
- 1975: Steppin’ (US #22)
- 1978: Energy (US #13)
- 1980: Special Things (US #34)
- 1981: Black & White (US #12; UK #21)
- 1983: Break Out (US #8; UK #9)
- 1985: Contact (US #25; UK #34)
- 1989: Jump: The Best of the Pointer Sisters (UK #11)
The HooDoo Rhythm Devils from San Francisco / Session musicians for Pointer Sisters first major studio recordings in 1973