Spectropop remembers

JUNE POINTER (1953 - 2006)

June Pointer, the youngest member of the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters, has died of cancer in Los Angeles. She was 52. June had been hospitalized since February, and, according to a family statement, died "in the arms of her sisters, Ruth and Anita, and with her brothers Aaron and Fritz by her side. Although her sister, Bonnie, was unable to be present, she was with her in spirit."

As a member of the Pointer Sisters, June Pointer's musical roots lay in gospel, but together with her three older siblings she enjoyed a string of secular hits in a brazenly sensual style. Presenting a sassy image that oozed sexuality, the sisters' best-known songs included "Yes We Can Can", "How Long (Betcha Got A Chick On The Side)", "Fire", "Automatic" and "Jump (For My Love)". Their chart successes all came in the 1970s and 1980s and although the Pointer Sisters continued to perform, June left the group, because of drug problems.

Born in 1953, in Oakland, California, she grew up singing with her sisters in the choir of the Church of God, where their parents Elton and Sarah Pointer were both ministers. The two oldest sisters, Ruth and Anita, married and began families as soon as they left school, but Bonnie and June had other ideas and by 1969 were singing in clubs around the San Francisco bay area as a duo billed as Pointers - A Pair.

After being raped and becoming pregnant, the teenage June had an abortion and the family believed that the experience contributed to what would become a lifelong struggle with drug addiction. Despite the trauma, the sisters were soon successful, singing the soul, jazz and r&b music that had been banned in their parents' religious household, and Anita joined them. As a trio, they recorded backing vocals on albums by various artists, including Boz Scaggs and Taj Mahal before Ruth joined the line-up in 1972.

Their first album, "The Pointers Sisters", followed a year later and was an immediate hit, helped by a glamorously nostalgic image that found them wearing feather boas and sassy 1940s-style dresses. They matched the image with harmonies that made them sound like a funked-up version of the Andrews Sisters, most successfully on the hit single "Yes We Can Can". Written by Allen Toussaint, the song was reinterpreted by the sisters in highly personal fashion as an expression of rebellion against their own upbringing. Ruth later explained that they simply loved singing "yes" and "can" when the word "no" had so dominated their youth. "It was no jewellery, no makeup, no dancing, no movies and certainly no rock music." A second album, "That's A Plenty", continued their eclectic style, embracing rock, soul, jazz and even country influences and contained the song "Fairytale" which won them their first Grammy Award in 1974 when it was named best country vocal performance by a group.

They briefly broke up in 1977 when Bonnie left for a solo career but the remaining three sisters soon reformed and signed to producer Richard Perry's newly formed Planet label. A simmering version of Bruce Springsteen's composition "Fire" gave them a million-seller in 1979, the first of a string of hits as a trio that included "He's So Shy" and "Slow Hand" and culminated in two more Grammy awards for "Automatic" and "Jump (For My Love)", both from their 1984 collection "Break Out". It was the height of their commercial success but by the late 1980s the hits had dried up.

June stepped out on her own many times, even posing in Playboy magazine. She recorded two solo albums, 1983's "Baby Sister" and 1989's "June Pointer". Her single "Ready For Some Action" reached the Top 30 on the R&B charts. In 1986, the Pointers, with June on lead vocal, joined Bruce Willis for the lively "Respect Yourself". The single, from Willis' debut, "The Return Of Bruno", reached the Top 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Chart, and June's solo performance in the video helped it become one of MTV's most popular clips at the time. A year later, June recorded a duet with Dionne Warwick, "Heartbreak Of Love", for Dionne's 1987 album, "Reservations For Two".

In 2004, June was arrested outside the Hollywood apartment of her sister Bonnie and charged with felony cocaine possession. She was later ordered to attend rehab. At the time, she had not performed with the Pointer Sisters in more than three years. She began working again and performed in Las Vegas. However, that halted when cancer was diagnosed.

She is survived by her brothers and sisters, two of whom, Anita and Ruth, continue to perform as the Pointer Sisters, with June's former role taken by Ruth's daughter, Issa.

(Adapted from an obituary in The Times)

June Pointer, singer: born November 30th, 1953 - died April 12th, 2006