36. I’m So Excited…Celebrating Juneteenth with the Pointer Sisters (with Anita Pointer and Fritz Pointer)

With Guests:

  • Anita Pointer, founding member of the legendary music group the Pointer Sisters. Anita and her sisters found fame in 1973, when the Anita-led “Yes We Can Can” became a hit on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #11. Their breakthrough resulted in multiple hits and Grammy Awards, including for Best Performance by a Duo or Group and even Best Country Duo or Group. In 1974, Anita’s writing talents helped the group make music history with “Fairytale,” which became a hit on the country music charts—leading the Pointer Sisters to become the first Black female group to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Their hit-making magic kept audiences singing and dancing through the 1980s and ’90s and became part of the 2008 Obama campaign playlist.  In 1994, Anita and her sisters received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Anita continues to write, record and perform, maintaining an international touring schedule as a member of the Pointer Sisters.
  • Professor Fritz Pointer is one of the older brothers of June, Bonnie, Anita and Ruth—also known as the Pointer Sisters. His latest book, Fairytale: The Pointer Sisters’ Family Story, is a memoir of their life co-authored with his sister, Anita Pointer. No one else knows the family, community, political or social history out of which the Pointer Sisters came as thoroughly and deeply as he does. He managed the group prior to becoming a professor specializing in African and African American history. Pointer has 30 years of experience teaching composition, African and African American humanities, and history in higher education. He has authored two books and several scholarly articles in his area of African literature.

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In this Episode:

In this joyous episode, host Michele Goodwin is joined by music icon Anita Pointer of the three-time Grammy Award-winning R&B group the Pointer Sisters and her brother Fritz Pointer, acclaimed professor and historian and former music manager. They celebrate Juneteenth and unpack their award-winning memoir, Fairytale: The Pointer Sisters’ Family Story.

Fritz and Anita Pointer discuss coming of age in the civil rights movement; emphasize the importance of tenacity and learning the hard way; and break down what it was like for their family to finally break through and land award after award—all by doing it their own way. As an added bonus, expect to be serenaded by Anita Pointer!

Have a topic you’d like us to delve into, a guest recommendationor just want to say hi? Drop us a line at [email protected]

Background Reading:

Transcript:

00:00:05.2 Michele Goodwin:

In this episode, “I’m so excited! Celebrating Juneteenth with The Pointer Sisters,” we are joined by Fritz and Anita Pointer to unpack their award-winning memoir Fairytale: The Pointer Sisters’ Family Story and celebrate Juneteenth. It is more than the definitive account of music icons. This is a riveting family memoir of The Pointer Sisters. 

It is a coming-of-age story centered in the Civil Rights Movement with a backdrop of tenacity, learning the hard way, breaking through, and landing music award after music award, doing it their own way. In this joyous episode, we even hear Anita Pointer sing to us as we celebrate and think about Juneteenth, The Pointer Sisters. How are you celebrating?

So, we’re joined by a very special guest. Anita Pointer is a founding member of the legendary music group The Pointer Sisters. Anita and her sisters found fame in the 1970s and ‘80s and ‘90s, and their legacy lives on, but you will remember their first big hit, “Yes We Can Can,” becoming a hit on the Billboard’s Hot 100, breaking through to number 11. And we’re also joined by Fritz Pointer.

Professor Fritz Pointer is one of the oldest brothers of the June, Bonnie, Anita, and Ruth quartet, otherwise known as The Pointer Sisters. His latest book, along with Anita, Fairytale: The Pointer Sisters’ Family Story, is a memoir of their life, and it’s co-authored, as I mentioned, with Anita Pointer. It is hot and fabulous. So, let’s get right on to it.

00:01:51.6 Fritz Pointer:

Okay.

00:01:53.5 Anita Pointer:

Hi.

00:01:53.7 Michele Goodwin:

So, it is wonderful to be with you, Fritz Pointer and Anita Pointer. Oh my goodness.

00:02:00.8 Anita Pointer:

Hello. It’s my pleasure.

00:02:01.8 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, I’m excited for this.

00:02:04.6 Anita Pointer:

It’s a thrill to be here with you.

00:02:04.4 Michele Goodwin:

It is a thrill, and I’m holding in my hands right now Fairytale: The Pointer Sisters’ Family Story, and it’s amazing, and our listeners will be able to go to the website. Yes, there it is. There it is, and look at the book and order the book. So, let’s turn to a discussion about your new award-winning memoir Fairytale: The Pointer Sisters’ Family Story. The memoir chronicles your coming-of-age story as artists and… 48-year musical career? That cannot be.

00:02:47.2 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, it be.

00:02:50.3 Michele Goodwin:

Cannot be. My goodness.

00:02:54.1 Anita Pointer:

I mean, we started in the ‘60s, you know?

00:02:58.4 Michele Goodwin:

Amazing.

00:02:59.3 Anita Pointer:

And that’s never stopped until 2015 for me.

36. I'm So Excited...Celebrating Juneteenth with the Pointer Sisters (with Anita Pointer and Fritz Pointer)
The Pointer Sisters in the Netherlands in 1974. (Wikimedia Commons)

00:03:04.5 Michele Goodwin:

And in the book, you describe the challenges you faced to get where you are today, the joy of making music, trials and tribulations of the music industry, and your journey navigating economic, social, cultural, and political realities and change. So, I want to just start there. You got started in the ‘60s. What was it like getting started, and what motivated you to get on stage?

00:03:33.0 Anita Pointer:

Well, what motivated me is I saw my sisters, Bonnie and June, singing at Fillmore West in San Francisco. They were with the Northern California State Youth Choir, and that’s the choir that had the hit out “Oh Happy Day,” and I saw them performing, and I lost my mind. I just wanted to be up there with them so bad. I was crying, so I couldn’t…you know, I just couldn’t take it. I wanted to be in that choir. So, the next day, I quit my job, and I joined the choir, which was very risky.

00:04:04.2 Michele Goodwin:

My goodness, what was the job that you quit? What job was that?

00:04:08.0 Anita Pointer:

Metoyer and Sweeney, a law office in Berkeley, and I was a receptionist studying to be a legal secretary. I had gone to several seminars, and I wanted to be a legal secretary, but that took it for me. When I saw that chance, I said I got to take this chance, and I took it, and I joined the choir. We rehearsed for a few weeks, and then we were all on our way to New York to perform with the choir.

But the morning of the trip…and mama had gotten a little loan to give me and Bonnie and June, a little cash to take on the road, 300 dollars, 100 apiece, but we were ready to go. Our bags were packed and at the door, and someone called and told my mother that the trip has been canceled. We were ready to leave that moment.

00:05:03.5 Fritz Pointer:

Yes. Yes. How devastating.

00:05:05.9 Anita Pointer:

So, then I had to go get another job.

00:05:08.8 Michele Goodwin:

All right, so, let’s pull back a little bit for our audience so that they understand the family. So, Fritz, why don’t we start with you with telling us a little bit about the family, the brothers, the sisters, the parents. What’s the family story?

00:05:25.3 Fritz Pointer:

Well, you know, we introduce the family in the book in Oakland, California. We came out to Oakland from Arkansas. From Little Rock, Arkansas, and our parents were part of the great migration, and so, when we got to Oakland, and we lived in a couple of places, even in the projects in Oakland, actually, but then our family started growing, and parents had to get another house, and so we got a house in Oakland on 18th Street. And before too long, we had other relatives come in from Arkansas, our grandparents, or our uncles and aunt. My mother’s brother and his…

00:06:06.4 Anita Pointer:

Brother.

00:06:06.7 Fritz Pointer:

…wife and their children, and so, as it ended up, there ended up being 15 of us in this house.

00:06:13.1 Michele Goodwin:

Fifteen?

00:06:14.5 Fritz Pointer:

Fifteen.

00:06:16.4 Anita Pointer:

Hey-oh.

00:06:18.3 Fritz Pointer:

And I mean, we had a ball.

00:06:21.1 Anita Pointer:

We sure did. We sure did.

00:06:22.0 Fritz Pointer:

I mean, there’s nothing greater, particularly for a young guy, to grow up with four sisters, and boy, four fine sisters who would get fine cribs.

00:06:38.9 Michele Goodwin:

And so, yes.

00:06:40.4 Fritz Pointer:

So, the Pointer household was a happy household, in spite of our, you know, relative poverty. Our mother had to work in the fields and go down to the fields and pick beans and strawberries and all kinds of stuff to feed us.

00:06:54.2 Michele Goodwin:

This was in California, so this was not part of the Arkansas story. This is your mother was…

00:06:58.4 Anita Pointer:

No, this is after the move.

00:06:59.7 Michele Goodwin:

After the move, in California.

00:07:01.2 Anita Pointer:

California.

00:07:02.8 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes, and so we…you know, we were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but we were a happy family sitting around the house. Our mother…

00:07:13.3 Anita Pointer:

I know it.

00:07:13.4 Fritz Pointer:

…sang all the time. You know, she would sing no matter what, and…

00:07:17.0 Anita Pointer:

She sure did.

00:07:17.6 Fritz Pointer:

…our dad was quite the disciplinarian, but also a calm and…

00:07:22.8 Michele Goodwin:

What was your dad doing? Was he also doing agriculture? Was he doing something else?

00:07:28.7 Fritz Pointer:

No, our dad, at the time, work…he first worked at General Electric in Oakland.

00:07:33.6 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, he sure did.

00:07:34.5 Fritz Pointer:

And he worked at General Electric until, you know, the church was able to, you know, afford him a salary, a modest salary, but he had another job, yes.

00:07:49.4 Michele Goodwin:

He had to have that other job.

00:07:50.2 Fritz Pointer:

He had to.

00:07:49.7 Michele Goodwin:

And you know, since we’re celebrating Juneteenth, too, it matters, something that you said, Fritz, which is that the family came from Arkansas and that it was part of that great north migration. It’s going to help people to understand what that was about. Why were Black folks leaving Arkansas? Why did your family have to leave?

00:08:13.4 Fritz Pointer:

Well, I would say that quickly…and I’ll let Anita, you know, get in on this, too. I remember my grandfather, Granddaddy Fritz, he was called…

00:08:24.8 Anita Pointer:

Granddaddy Fritz.

00:08:25.5 Fritz Pointer:

…and Granddaddy Fritz would say, you know, either I am going to kill somebody or I’m going to be killed, because I cannot stand this…he didn’t add all this, but that’s what he…based upon the Jim Crow system there and the fact that our mother was a very—well, we’re biased, but a very attractive woman, and he’d say, I’ve got to protect my daughter, and so we’ve got to move. We cannot stay here. Either somebody’s going to kill us or we going to get killed because we cannot stand this system, and so we, you know, packed up, at least our family did, packed up and moved to Oakland, California.

00:09:04.1 Anita Pointer:

And you said…there was a story where you said they tried to take the house, saying he hadn’t made his mortgage payments.

00:09:09.5 Fritz Pointer:

That’s right.

00:09:11.4 Anita Pointer:

Luckily, he had saved every receipt.

00:09:15.1 Fritz Pointer:

Yes, that’s right. That’s right.

00:09:18.6 Anita Pointer:

So they couldn’t take the home.

00:09:18.5 Michele Goodwin:

So, within your family, you have that Jim Crow story, because that’s a Jim Crow story, right, with families being threatened with being removed from their house, and when you talk about…again, to help our listeners understand, when you’re talking about Granddaddy Fritz saying that he has to protect his daughter, he’s not just talking about protect his daughter because, oh, she’s going to go on a date. We’re talking about the fact that Black women were regularly and routinely raped and subjected to sexual assaults, and so it was granddaddy protecting his daughter from the prospect of that and then no one being punished for doing those kinds of things.

00:09:59.0 Anita Pointer:

Right. That’s true.

00:10:00.5 Michele Goodwin:

So, Anita, the family arrives in California, and there are siblings, give us the order of the siblings. Who are the siblings?

00:10:13.6 Anita Pointer:

Aaron’s the oldest brother. Fritz is next. Fritz is the younger brother, and then Ruth is next, and then I’m number four, and then Bonnie, and June was the baby.

00:10:28.8 Michele Goodwin:

And June was the baby, and ultimately, you all, after you get so excited seeing your sisters on stage, that you quit your job at the law firm.

00:10:38.8 Anita Pointer:

I sure did.

00:10:40.1 Michele Goodwin:

And at some point…

00:10:40.9 Anita Pointer:

I had to take the chance.

36. I'm So Excited...Celebrating Juneteenth with the Pointer Sisters (with Anita Pointer and Fritz Pointer)
The Pointer Family (The Pointer Sisters / Twitter)

00:10:42.1 Michele Goodwin:

You had to take the chance, and so many of our listeners, so many women sort of confront that, like, point about when they have to take a chance, but you took a chance, and eventually, you all took a chance, and you became The Pointer Sisters. Tell us about that evolution. How did you become The Pointer Sisters?

00:10:59.7 Anita Pointer:

Well, we were the little Pointer sisters in church, but even though we were never little. We were the big little Pointer sisters, but me and Bonnie and June started doing backup singing, and we did a lot in the studio in San Francisco, different groups, Taj Mahal, Elvin Bishop, Grace Slick.

00:11:26.8 Fritz Pointer:

Esther Phillips.

00:11:29.2 Anita Pointer:

Esther Phillips, yes. And Sylvester and his Hot Band.

00:11:33.8 Michele Goodwin:

Oh my gosh.

00:11:34.6 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, we were with them, and you know, we…I always felt like one of these days, we’re going to be up front, but that was a great tool for learning how to be in the back and how to treat people who are behind you, you know? It really, really made a total difference because we didn’t come out doing no diva crap, you know? We were just…we knew what it felt like to be the backup.

00:12:01.9 Michele Goodwin:

Right. Yeah, and it’s rare, isn’t it, that backup singers make their way to the front?

00:12:10.8 Anita Pointer:

That’s the truth. That’s so true, and especially when there’s three of them. Usually, they break the groups up and one comes out, you know, and the rest of the group kind of fades away.

00:12:21.4 Michele Goodwin:

But that didn’t happen for you. What was the break?

00:12:23.9 Anita Pointer:

No, it didn’t.

00:12:25.2 Michele Goodwin:

What was it that got you to the front?

00:12:28.5 Anita Pointer:

We were performing backup singing with Elvin Bishop at the Whisky a Go Go here in LA, and Jerry Wexler, who was Aretha’s producer at the time, saw us with Elvin Bishop and called our manager, who was David Rubinson, and told him I want those girls. I want to sign them. I want to sign these girls tonight, and he got the deal right away, and we were off and gone in New Orleans first and then to Jackson, Mississippi. Our first big record deal came from Jerry Wexler.

00:13:05.8 Michele Goodwin:

Wow, and were you surprised when it happened?

00:13:08.5 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, but I knew it was coming someday. I was just kind of surprised it happened that way, you know, and not like in an office where we’re sitting down negotiating and all this kind of stuff, you know, but yeah, I was just so honored that Aretha’s producer liked us. Liked us enough to want to sign us to his record label, and that was Atlantic Records, and that was the first deal we got.

00:13:32.5 Michele Goodwin:

And what year was that? Do you remember?

00:13:35.5 Fritz Pointer:

1971, I believe, or it could’ve been ’69, but early.

00:13:40.7 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, like, around 1969, ’70 I think it was. I don’t even remember what year that was.

00:13:47.0 Michele Goodwin:

So you got your first deal then, and so, Fritz, where are you in all of this? So, they’ve got their deal, because, at some point, you’re on the road with them. At some point, you’re wearing a manager’s hat before you just have too much of it all.

00:14:06.2 Fritz Pointer:

Well, it’s not easy, you know, working with family, you know, particularly the young sisters, you know, and it took me a while to understand and to realize, really, and to be really conscious of the stature that they had achieved, and so when they were doing Carol Burnett and Flip Wilson and the Cher Show, well, to me, it was like, hey, you know, okay…so, okay, it wasn’t…

I really didn’t quite comprehend the bigness of it, if you will, and so, you know, they hired me as a road manager because I needed work, first of all, and I appreciated that so much, but then, as a road manager, I had certain responsibilities that I tended to shirk because I was a college educated dude, and you know, I was just sitting reading my New York Times, and they’re saying, Hey, you got to check this stage floor. It’s got holes in it. You didn’t see those? You didn’t see those holes in the stage?

Boy, this was in New York City in Madison Square Garden. I said, but hey, that was my first faux pas. The next one was when they were doing the Carol Burnett show and asked me, you know, during a break if I would go get some burgers, and I said, hey, I’m reading my New York Times here. Can I finish my New York Times? And then I don’t know who said it. It may have been June who said, but look, we’re stars, Fritz. We’re stars.

00:15:36.7 Anita Pointer:

It sounds like June.

00:15:40.6 Fritz Pointer:

So put that damn paper down and go and get us some hamburgers. So, you know, that was kind of a writing on the wall that it was time for me to, you know, head maybe off into another profession.

00:15:54.9 Michele Goodwin:

Time for you to head into academia.

00:15:56.3 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, yeah.

00:15:56.8 Michele Goodwin:

And those holes in the floor matter because they’re dancing. They could be tripping.

00:16:01.2 Anita Pointer:

Oh, yeah, we always look out for that. Oh, yes, indeed, and they are…

00:16:07.3 Michele Goodwin:

So, I’m wondering how we fit in then something else. So, you’ve got a loving family that’s all together in Oakland. Got this musical talent that’s coming out in church and whatnot. In part, I’m just tiptoeing back a little bit here, and at some point, we’ve got Bonnie and you, Anita, being founding members of the Northern California Black Panther Party. So, how does that come about? And Fritz, you’re involved, too.

00:16:40.3 Anita Pointer:

You, Fritz.

00:16:41.1 Michele Goodwin:

Exactly. Fritz, too.

00:16:42.4 Anita Pointer:

That’s how I got involved, through my brother Fritz. He was teaching when he came back from college, and he was teaching Black history to Black kids in Oakland who had never had any Black history. You know, we didn’t get nothing in school except you’re from cotton pickers. That’s what you’re all about. That’s all you contributed to this country.

00:17:00.6 Fritz Pointer:

Picking cotton and making peanut butter.

00:17:03.9 Anita Pointer:

And making peanut butter. That was it, you know, but Fritz got me involved, and we were friendly with the pack, with the Panther Party, but we were a different group. Fritz was into more teaching, you know, instead of fighting, you know? He wasn’t promoting guns, and he was promoting education and learning.

00:17:24.7 Fritz Pointer:

I was very fortunate, Michele, to have a mentor. His name was Dr. Mudavanha Paterson, and he was a PhD from Berkeley, California, and he was a close…so close. We were brothers. We traveled to Africa three times together. We went to Libya. We went to Egypt. We went to Tanzania together, and he was my mentor, and he advised me, because Oakland, it was a very…and is still a very sophisticated city politically.

And the infrastructure was very highly developed politically with all kinds of organizations, including the NAACP and Urban League and CORE and RAM and SNCC and the Muslims, and all of those were there, the Paul Robeson Society, and my mentor took me to all these different organizations to meet their leadership, but he advised me not to join any of them. He said, you should know who they are, but don’t join any of them, and I understand that now and understood it a bit later, that it allowed me to work with anybody and…

00:18:34.2 Anita Pointer:

That’s right. Yeah.

00:18:35.2 Fritz Pointer:

…it allowed me to work with anybody without being pigeonholed into a particular mold. I think there is another thing that comes out of our family, and that is a fierce individualism. There is a fierce individualism among my sisters.

00:18:50.8 Michele Goodwin:

Well, you could see it even in how they took the stage, that fierce individualism.

00:18:56.4 Anita Pointer:

We were so different.

36. I'm So Excited...Celebrating Juneteenth with the Pointer Sisters (with Anita Pointer and Fritz Pointer)
The Pointer Sisters performing on Dutch television in 1974. (Wikimedia Commons)

00:18:57.7 Fritz Pointer:

The way they dressed, Anita would perhaps give you some background on the Esther Phillips encounter. Oh, god. I mean, oh, dear.

00:19:07.7 Anita Pointer:

We were being practical. We were getting as little as 15 dollars a show, and we used that to give us a little bit of something to eat and save it up and pay our rent. She gave us that and told us to go to Lerner’s, this cheap-y store in Oakland. She said, Go to Lerner’s and buy you some outfits for the stage. Get something that’s matching. We were coming on stage with our bellbottom jeans with the Rolling Stones tongue on the back, on the booty, and we were rock and roll, you know?

But that was not what she wanted. She wanted us in dresses. Like, she wore evening gowns, and we’re up there in jeans, but we didn’t have money to buy no new wardrobe. You know, we had been performing in jeans with Elvin Bishop, with Taj Mahal. All of San Francisco, people that we worked with at that time accepted us in jeans, but not Esther Phillips.

00:20:06.2 Michele Goodwin:

You know, and we’re going to come back to the stage presence because you all also did something that folks call the crossover and stuff like that, too. As you were talking about, you were already rock and roll, but I start off with this question with regard to the Panthers because you also were educated, and you brought a vision of education.

And you’re absolutely right, Fritz, you know, in thinking even about the Panthers, and their early work was about educating kids, providing free lunches to kids, all these things that weren’t being done, and I wonder then how being politically aware, being socially aware, being committed to the uplift of Black people, how that informed then your music as you started out? Was that ever part of the backdrop in terms of thinking about the formation of The Pointer Sisters?

00:21:01.5 Fritz Pointer:

Well, I would say that first hit Anita…I’m going to let Anita take it from here, though, but that first hit, “Yes We Can Can,” Anita has some lyrics in there that I think expresses the kind of political commitment that she’s displayed most of her adult life. How can you sit there with the rest of…

00:21:20.5 Anita Pointer:

Like there’s nothing do you. Like you don’t care what this world’s coming to. Lord. There’s so many needy, so many poor, but love and understanding is the key to the door.

00:21:34.9 Michele Goodwin:

Oh my gosh, and with lyrics like this, audience, and do respect the women of the world, remember all you have mothers. We got to make this land a better land than the world in which we live. Oh my gosh, it gives me chills, the lyrics from that song.

00:21:49.0 Fritz Pointer:

Me too.

00:21:50.3 Michele Goodwin:

Doesn’t it?

00:21:50.8 Anita Pointer:

Yes. Yes. It does.

00:21:51.7 Fritz Pointer:

Me too. It does. I’ve said to Anita…I’ve said to her, Anita, you’re a griotte. People knew about griots, but they don’t know about the griottes, the women poets and singers of Africa, and I said, Anita, you are a griotte, because her lyrics, her words are so profound, and you know, I would put her up against the best of poets in terms of just her records.

00:22:14.8 Anita Pointer:

Oh, thank you, Fritz.

00:22:15.4 Fritz Pointer:

She has just been…I mean, her words are just amazing. Like that Fairytale that she wrote. I mean, Elvis said…what did Elvis say about that?

00:22:24.7 Anita Pointer:

Elvis said it was a story of his life, Fairytale, and he recorded it on his Elvis Today album. It’s on his Elvis Today album, and I never got to meet him, but I was sure glad he did my song. I was really thrilled with that. Yeah.

00:22:40.7 Michele Goodwin:

Well, let’s talk about that. So, we’ve got The Pointer Sisters end up being formed. You get your first contract, and does the group start off as the four or start off as the three?

00:22:53.3 Anita Pointer:

Four. Ruthie came in…well, the first contract was three, me and Bonnie and June, but then, soon after…because what we did with that Atlantic Records deal when we did the recording, we took it back to San Francisco, and our manager threw it across the room up against the wall and broke it to pieces. Pulled the tapes out. This was reel to reel.

He said, uh-uh, this is not what I want you guys to do, because we got down there, we have songs that we had written and songs that we took down there, and they laughed in our face and told us Black girls can’t sing this kind of stuff. You have to sing…because we had a country song, a jazz song, you know, with Taj Mahal and you know, different stuff, but they said, no, you got to sound like The Jackson 5 or The Honeycombs.

00:23:42.4 Michele Goodwin:

How did you respond to that, right? I mean, that’s so offensive saying that you can’t be you.

00:23:46.9 Anita Pointer:

We stood there and looked sad. Wasn’t anything else we could do, but they laughed in our faces. We standing there singing to them some of these songs, and they just start laughing.

00:23:59.5 Michele Goodwin:

Right, because they believed that Black women couldn’t sing…

00:24:00.0 Fritz Pointer:

Well, actually…

00:24:01.7 Anita Pointer:

It was very humiliating. I couldn’t believe they would do that to us. I couldn’t believe it. It was really…

00:24:05.3 Fritz Pointer:

Actually, Bonnie had an interesting reply, too…

00:24:06.5 Anita Pointer:

…cruel.

00:24:08.0 Fritz Pointer:

When they said you got to decide what genre you want to sing. You got to decide what you want to sing, and Bonnie’s response was, We have decided. We want to sing everything. We want to sing everything. We want to sing everything, and I think that’s the challenge I think, you know, for a lot of young people coming up now. They’re being forced to choose a genre, and they’re being put into a box and saying, you got to stay in this bo

00:24:31.4 Anita Pointer:

The box, and that’s all you can do.

00:24:34.2 Michele Goodwin:

Well, and you had an intersectional box, right, because it’s the box because of race and it’s the box because of sex. On both fronts, this is what you can’t do, and this is what we’re telling you that you…so, how did you all navigate that? Did you have, you know, a huddle where you sort of huddled together and you said, all right, this is how we’re going to do it, or did you say, okay, well, we want to get our foot in the door and keep our foot in the door, so this is how we’ll do it? How did you come to the decision about how you’d move forward after that?

00:25:04.8 Anita Pointer:

We just really…trying to think of what did we do? We really found it in the music, you know? When we wanted to move forward or do something to impress the people of the world, we found that in our music, and that seemed to…

00:25:23.6 Fritz Pointer:

And I think David Rubinson…

00:25:25.1 Anita Pointer:

David Rubinson was a great starter for us. He just made everything so wonderful, and he protected us, too, from all the craziness that’s out in this entertainment world.

00:25:36.4 Michele Goodwin:

Tell us about that relationship.

00:25:36.3 Anita Pointer:

He was very protective.

00:25:37.8 Michele Goodwin:

What did that…how did that form? Who is he? What did he do?

00:25:42.3 Anita Pointer:

David?

00:25:42.3 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah.

00:25:44.8 Anita Pointer:

David Rubinson…Bonnie and June were…well, let’s see. Bonnie and June was doing some backup singing with this guy named Michael Takamatsu in San Francisco, and he took a tape into David Rubinson’s office. He turned Bonnie and June onto David Rubinson, and David played the tape, and he liked Bonnie and June’s backup singing, but he didn’t like Michael’s singing.

So, he…but he gave Bonnie a card of his, and me and Bonnie and June went to Texas, and this was…god, was this before…this was before the Atlantic deal…yeah, before the Atlantic deal because we hadn’t sang with Elvin Bishop yet. Me and Bonnie and June met this guy who said he knew all these people in Texas that could get us started, and we wanted to sing, and this was, like, between the choir and nothing, you know, a new job. I worked at another company, but let’s see. So…

00:26:49.8 Fritz Pointer:

You went to Houston.

00:26:51.0 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, we went to Texas. Got stranded in Texas, and Bonnie just happened to have David Rubinson’s card in her purse, and we said, well, it won’t hurt to try. You know, we tried everybody else, every other friend we know, including mama, and mother told us, I’ll get…mother said I’ll get my baby June home, but you and Anita better get home on your own. You and Bonnie better get on on your own. So, we were kind of stuck there and staying in a horrible place with this girl that we had just met because we were stranded. This guy that we went to Texas with abandoned us. He got mad because I think he had other plans for us in Texas.

00:27:31.7 Michele Goodwin:

And you didn’t have those plans. You didn’t share those plans.

00:27:35.6 Anita Pointer:

No, we said, you are not going to tell us what to do. You know, he thought he could boss us around. No. Crazy fool. So, he put us out, and he was from there, from Houston. His mother lived there. His sister lived there, and instead of him going out and go stay at other places, he put us out, so he was a real dog.

00:27:59.5 Michele Goodwin:

And so we’ve got Rubin’s…we’ve got the card.

00:28:01.8 Anita Pointer:

So, David…yeah, we called David. Say it can’t hurt. You know, he can’t hit us by just answer the phone, and he agreed to get us back to Oakland, and he sent tickets for me, Bonnie, and June, and we left Texas and got back to Oakland, and as soon as we got back, he started booking us as backup singers. That’s when the backup singing really started, with David. He got us jobs with Sunbear, with Elvin Bishop and Cold Blood and all these different San Francisco artists. He was the one that got us started.

00:28:36.8 Michele Goodwin:

He really got you all started, which then led to you being able to get your first major contract, and you know, Anita…

00:28:42.9 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, he rescued us from a horrible situation in Texas. He really did. He rescued us. It was really bad.

00:28:51.1 Michele Goodwin:

Isn’t that interesting, that synergy, the fact that that all came together in that way, the serendipity of it? It’s amazing.

00:28:59.5 Anita Pointer:

No, I’m telling you, it amazed me, really. It was the best times of our lives, you know?

00:29:03.4 Michele Goodwin:

Audience, I am holding this book in my hand, and it just feels so magical. You have to go to our website and look at the cover of this book, and you will see exactly what you heard Fritz and Anita talking about in terms of their individuality, and it’s working. I mean, it’s just…and what’s interesting is the individuality comes out, and it’s also seamless. You know, you’re not wearing the same things, but it looks so in harmony. That’s amazing.

00:29:33.1 Anita Pointer:

In harmony, yeah.

00:29:35.0 Michele Goodwin:

Anita, on the very first page of the memoir, you write, “We were thrust into the dizzying world of show business with no professional training other than singing in the choir at our father’s church. Not only that, we knew nothing about royalties, songwriting credits, or management fees.” So, what was it like entering that music industry and then having to learn? Tell us about what did you learn, and what would be your advice to people who are coming up just like you were?

00:30:11.9 Anita Pointer:

Sorry, my phone started ringing. What would it be for people who are coming up…

00:30:14.1 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah, so, you didn’t have all that experience, and so I wonder, what was that like? What were the things that you had to learn? And then we’ll get to what advice you have for others. So, you didn’t know any of those things. Did you have experiences where you’re like, I wish we had known that?

00:30:28.8 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, from working on…

00:30:33.4 Fritz Pointer:

Yeah, Taj Mahal, for example, told them they should get certain kinds of arranging credits and stuff.

00:30:39.3 Anita Pointer:

He sure did. He was the first one to tell us, when we had been doing backup singing with a lot of groups, and they’d get us in the studio, and they’d say, now, listen to this song. Now, what would you sing behind it? And me and Bonnie and June would create the background parts, and we were good at it, too, and but only we got paid for singing. We would create them and sing them.

00:31:03.0 Michele Goodwin:

Right, but you were actually doing arranging.

00:31:02.9 Anita Pointer:

But Taj Mahal let us know…yeah, arranging and writing. Taj Mahal was the first one to tell us that, you know, you guys deserve credits on this because you do more than just sing the songs. You’re creating…you know, you’re arranging the vocals.

00:31:17.6 Fritz Pointer:

You’re arranging. Yes. Yes. Yes, but that owner…the ownership of music comes later I think, Anita, in terms of recognizing the need to…

00:31:32.2 Anita Pointer:

Do own your publishing.

00:31:32.8 Fritz Pointer:

…own your publishing, you know?

00:31:34.7 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, things like that, but they don’t tell you that.

00:31:37.1 Michele Goodwin:

So, when did you learn about that? So, when did you learn about that, that you had to, you know, own your own music?

00:31:46.8 Anita Pointer:

I guess I learned about it when I was with Sonny Burke, and he taught me a lot of stuff about the music industry. He had been in it for a long time.

00:31:57.6 Fritz Pointer:

And Sonny Burke is who?

00:32:01.2 Anita Pointer:

Pianist. He was Smokey Robinson’s musical director, and he was the assistant producer on The Pointer Sisters Having a Party album. He produced that with Richard Perry.

00:32:20.9 Michele Goodwin:

And so that’s something then that ends up coming out where you learn…but I imagine that there were a lot of women, perhaps…you know, a lot of Black musicians, Black women musicians who did not know…

00:32:31.2 Anita Pointer:

That don’t know. Yeah. I mean, and a lot of these corporations, they’ll pay you off, and you’d be a ghostwriter, and you’d get paid, but they take all the credit. You know, the artist will take all the credit, and you don’t have anything to back you up on it because you signed a deal that I’m a ghost…you know.

00:32:51.0 Fritz Pointer:

Yeah, you know, it’s hard, Michele, particularly when you’re coming out…like I said, we came out of a poor circumstance, you know, and beginning to make a living and make money. You know, you’re glad to be able to, you know, to sustain yourself, and you’re not thinking so much of the future investment. You’re just trying to survive, you know, and the managers and producers…

00:33:12.3 Anita Pointer:

Day to day.

00:33:14.4 Fritz Pointer:

Yeah, they kind of…

00:33:15.3 Michele Goodwin:

And they exploit people.

00:33:16.6 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

00:33:17.0 Anita Pointer:

Oh, yeah.

00:33:16.9 Michele Goodwin:

I mean, there are people who…you know, very famous had hits, and then you find out that, you know, they died homeless.

00:33:23.0 Anita Pointer:

Right. Exactly. Exactly, and that’s something that happens all the time.

00:33:29.4 Fritz Pointer:

Anita had a song that she’s written, and she can’t collect on for, what, 20 years or something?

00:33:35.0 Anita Pointer:

It started off as 57 years. I wrote them and I published them back in the ‘70s, and now it’s coming to where I think I just have a few more years, and I can recoup my publishing on those songs.

00:33:51.3 Michele Goodwin:

That’s amazing. So, there is a way in which you’re still caught in that. All right, so, I do want to get back slightly to this political, but I’m going to let that go for a bit because President Obama used your record, “Yes We Can Can,” during his presidential campaign in 2008, and there’s so much more there. The mold breaking.

And then there comes this time in the ‘70s and the ‘80s where The Pointer Sisters are everywhere. Everywhere. Everybody’s so excited about The Pointer Sisters and whatnot. So, when is it that you reached that magical space, and what comes with the magic, right? Because there’s a lot of work to get to that space where you’re on the top of everybody’s mind and on the tip of their tongues, but what are the costs of fame?

00:34:39.9 Anita Pointer:

Oh, boy.

00:34:40.6 Michele Goodwin:

I know, we’re getting deep now.

00:34:42.7 Anita Pointer:

Well, yeah. Yeah. Being away from your family, you know?

00:34:46.8 Fritz Pointer:

Yes. Yeah, that’s a big part. Yeah.

00:34:49.3 Anita Pointer:

That’s a real sacrifice.

00:34:51.7 Fritz Pointer:

That’s a real sacrifice.

00:34:53.6 Anita Pointer:

To leave home and have your baby crying, don’t go, mommy. Don’t go, and you got to go to the airport, and you’re not making enough money to take them with you. You know, these other groups, these white groups, they have money. Their deals are with the record companies to make and take their husbands, the kids, and everybody on the road with them because they were giving them enough money to do that. They don’t do that with Black acts. You have to work your way through everything. Oh, god.

00:35:21.4 Michele Goodwin:

Even when you’re selling the record. So, even as you are…your name is everywhere, but you’re not getting money. You’re not getting paid what the white artists are being paid?

00:35:30.7 Fritz Pointer:

No. Oh, no.

00:35:32.0 Anita Pointer:

Oh, no. Never. No, we’re not. You know, and it’s a shame.

00:35:38.2 Fritz Pointer:

Getting that top billing is hard, you know? There are some real traumatic times that I mention in the book even. Their first appearance in Las Vegas. I think it was the first, Anita, when June wouldn’t come out of the dressing room.

00:35:51.8 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, that was Las Vegas. I was thinking about that, too.

00:35:52.8 Michele Goodwin:

Tell us about that. Tell us about that.

00:35:54.6 Anita Pointer:

Because that’s another place where we’re pushed into these rooms down the hall.

00:36:02.0 Michele Goodwin:

Describe that for our listeners.

00:36:02.4 Anita Pointer:

And with the other act…I won’t name any other acts, but when they come in, they get a villa. Beautiful villa, but we didn’t get that, even though we were headlining at Caesars Palace.

00:36:13.4 Michele Goodwin:

Wait, so, for the audience, so that the audience…because I’m holding the book, and I’m feeling magic in my hands, you all, but for those of you who haven’t yet read the book, and I know you’re going to rush out and get it because they are winning all sorts of awards about this book. It is so powerful. So you’re headlining.

00:36:31.0 Anita Pointer:

Isn’t that wonderful?

00:36:32.6 Michele Goodwin:

It is wonderful.

00:36:33.2 Fritz Pointer:

Thank you, Michele.

00:36:34.8 Michele Goodwin:

It’s absolutely wonderful.

00:36:36.3 Fritz Pointer:

And thank you for your endorsement of it, Michele.

00:36:39.4 Anita Pointer:

Yes, thank you so much.

00:36:41.7 Michele Goodwin:

Of course. Of course. So, you all are headlining in Vegas, and Vegas, of course, had its race history, too, and Frank Sinatra ends up, you know, getting involved in that, and so tell us about—you’re headlining, but you’re not getting the comforts of headlining.

00:37:01.8 Anita Pointer:

Right. Well, we didn’t even know it because they were the rooms they always gave us, but they were always the rooms at the end of the hall. They were nice big suites with horrible wallpaper.

00:37:14.4 Michele Goodwin:

At the end of the hall.

00:37:16.6 Anita Pointer:

That wallpaper screams at you, get out and gamble. Get out of the room and go and gamble.

00:37:20.1 Michele Goodwin:

Right. Right. Right. Exactly, and meanwhile, white acts that aren’t even headlining are being provided villas and other kinds of treatment.

00:37:29.1 Anita Pointer:

I don’t know the…I’m talking about those who were headlining, just like we were headlining.

00:37:34.5 Michele Goodwin:

Right, but you’re not getting…

00:37:35.9 Anita Pointer:

We didn’t get the villas, you know? We didn’t get that. We never had a deal with…

00:37:40.1 Michele Goodwin:

And why was it that June didn’t want to come out?

00:37:43.6 Anita Pointer:

Just nerves. It was our very first time there.

00:37:45.2 Fritz Pointer:

Nerves.

00:37:46.4 Anita Pointer:

Our very first time in Vegas, and she was just nervous and…

00:37:50.1 Fritz Pointer:

Tired.

00:37:50.3 Anita Pointer:

…stressed. Tired and stressed. Yeah, because we were working so hard. I can’t believe how hard…

00:37:55.4 Fritz Pointer:

We had just come back from…we had just come back from Meudon in France.

00:37:59.9 Anita Pointer:

Meudon. Yeah.

00:38:00.7 Fritz Pointer:

Meudon. Meudon. Okay. From France.

00:38:03.3 Anita Pointer:
Yeah. In the South of France.

00:38:04.7 Fritz Pointer:

And it was like a three-and-a-half, four-week grueling tour, day after day after day, and June was just exhausted. You know, she had gone through this terrible, traumatic experience not long before of being…you know, well, being raped in Oakland by these guys, and that traumatized her for the rest of her life.

00:38:27.8 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, she never got over it. Poor baby.

00:38:30.1 Fritz Pointer:

Never got over it. Never got over it, and so, she began to, you know, try a little self-medication, but the doctors first got her on these hard, hard meds, these hard drugs until Mother…until she was, like, in a zombie-like state. This is, again, just prior to their, you know, advent into the career world, but she was like in a zombie-like state, and Mother went over and said, hey, I’m taking my baby home. She took her out of the hospital and brought her home, and I was there at the time, and I know Mother bathed her and washed her and took her to movies and held her hand and sang to her.

00:39:13.8 Michele Goodwin:

I’m sorry, Fritz. Yeah, this is the backdrop. So, as part of the added texture of a group that’s bringing such joy and life to an audience, the backdrop is also the kind of suffering, you know, and enduring things like, you know, the rape, sexual assault against June and the family and the group having to deal with that. So, I mean, that’s attention. You know, they say the show must go on. They must get to the stage, but the audience doesn’t always know just…

00:39:46.5 Fritz Pointer:

What’s going on.

00:39:46.7 Michele Goodwin:

…just how traumatic what’s going on in someone’s life to get you to the stage. So, did June get to the stage?

00:39:54.1 Fritz Pointer:

No, Mother had to come and pick her up in a private plane. She wouldn’t come out of her room.

00:39:58.9 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, she wouldn’t go. She wouldn’t go on stage.

00:40:00.4 Fritz Pointer:

She would not go on stage.

June Pointer. (Wikimedia Commons)

00:40:02.0 Anita Pointer:

We had to redo our whole show with three, with me and Ruthie and Bonnie. We had to redo the show because it was all choreographed and everything, you know? So, we just did it.

00:40:14.8 Michele Goodwin:

And you know, we’re talking about the challenges behind the music and you know, the things that folks encounter. This is what we get to learn from the book and more. So, I’m glad that you’re willing to share these experiences with us, and you know, you talked about, Anita, how hard it can be to leave your child behind because you don’t have the money to be able to take your child on tour with you or anybody else. What are some of the other kinds of challenges that you found while everybody’s celebrating your music, but behind the scenes, you all are having to deal with things?

00:40:58.0 Fritz Pointer:

Well, there are two things I’ve had come right to mind, and that one is when they first did their first public appearance at this club. I think it was called Bimbos.

00:41:09.9 Anita Pointer:

Oh, yeah.

00:41:11.3 Fritz Pointer:

And the band members, a couple of the band members, if not all of them, but a couple of them for sure had on full Ku Klux Klan regalia.

00:41:21.4 Michele Goodwin:

No.

00:41:22.5 Anita Pointer:

Yes, they did.

00:41:23.3 Fritz Pointer:

In their very first public appearance.

00:41:26.5 Anita Pointer:

Bimbos in San Francisco.

00:41:29.6 Fritz Pointer:

I mean, what it…

00:41:30.6 Michele Goodwin:

San Francisco. This was not Mississippi audience.

00:41:32.7 Anita Pointer:

Yeah. No, this is San Francisco.

00:41:34.3 Fritz Pointer:

Yeah, right. Liberal San Francisco with the band members in Ku Klux Klan, and here they are on stage like four Billie Holidays, and it was like…

00:41:42.3 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, we could’ve been singing Strange Fruit.

00:41:44.6 Michele Goodwin:

You could’ve been.

00:41:46.2 Anita Pointer:

And here they coming out singing…they’re coming out playing with Ku Klux Klan uniform. That was just so tacky.

00:41:51.5 Fritz Pointer:

Yeah, and what for? To intimidate them. To frighten them. To hopefully make…

00:41:57.2 Anita Pointer:

That was evil.

00:41:57.6 Fritz Pointer:

Just evil, evil, evil, evil. The second one I want to mention is the event at the Grand Ole Opry when they were told…when they were met with signs saying keep country white, basically. Keep country country. Keep country white, and they were met with these signs protesting when they were the first…

00:42:19.6 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, before we went in.

00:42:21.2 Fritz Pointer:

To perform at the Grand Ole Opry, and that’s just how they got welcomed to the Grand Ole Opry.

00:42:27.9 Michele Goodwin:

So, repeat that again, Fritz. So, they were the first Black female group…

00:42:31.2 Fritz Pointer:

First Black female group to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry.

00:42:34.1 Anita Pointer:

Ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Yeah.

00:42:37.5 Fritz Pointer:

And the last.

00:42:38.6 Anita Pointer:

And the first Black female group to ever get a Grammy for a country song.

00:42:42.3 Fritz Pointer:

For a country song.

00:42:44.2 Michele Goodwin:

Here we go, and there it was, these folks saying that you’re not supposed to, you’re not allowed to sing country music.

00:42:51.0 Anita Pointer:

You’re not country.

00:42:52.8 Michele Goodwin:

You’re not country, and you are the first Black female group to win a Grammy in country.

00:42:57.7 Anita Pointer:

I mean, when I wrote Fairytale, it wasn’t…I didn’t sit down and say I’m going to write a country song. I just started writing a song, and it came out country because I’m country.

00:43:07.7 Michele Goodwin:

You were born in Arkansas. So, let’s be clear.

00:43:10.4 Anita Pointer:

We grew up in a country church. It was country, you know? Things around that.

00:43:13.5 Fritz Pointer:

That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.

00:43:16.4

Fritz Pointer:

No shame in that!

00:43:18.0 Anita Pointer:

No shame. I love the country anyway.

00:43:22.2 Fritz Pointer:

I was really happy that they also, Michele, perpetuated the only classical music of America, and that is jazz, to me. That that classical music that my sisters…my sisters, you know, perpetuated that in their early days with creating all the Ellington Medleys and singing Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie and those giant, you know, jazz musicians, and they came out singing, and then this Cloudburst, and what’s some of the other…Cloudburst and…

00:43:57.3 Anita Pointer:

Salt Peanuts.

00:43:58.7 Fritz Pointer:

Salt Peanuts. Oh my god, Michele, I challenge any group to date…

00:44:03.5 Anita Pointer:

To sing Dizzy in their job.

00:44:05.3 Fritz Pointer:

Sing that song. I mean, it’s just such a challenge, you know, and to hear Anita talk about how they learned the song, you know, methodically, day after day, adding a little bit more and adding a little bit more and until they got it down pat and boom, here we go. “I was blue, and I was always wearing a frown…”

00:44:25.4 Anita Pointer:

Dizzy, oh, he was really grateful that we kept that genre of music alive, you know? John Hendricks, he came and saw us, and he cried. Annie Ross, same thing with her. She was just so, so thrilled that we did the songs.

00:44:40.7 Michele Goodwin:

It is the original American music, isn’t it?

00:44:43.8 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, yeah.

00:44:44.2 Anita Pointer:

Yes. Yes.

00:44:45.3 Michele Goodwin:

I mean, it really is, but many people…so, what many people came to see in the ‘70s and ‘80s, especially in the ‘80s, was a lot of pop music.

00:44:54.4 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, yes.

00:44:55.2 Michele Goodwin:

So, tell us about, then, the ‘80s, and had that become economically better, and did you see that once there was greater economic stability, did some of the challenges still remain, or did they lift a little bit, and then I’ll get to “I’m so excited,” and some of those songs that just people have swimming in their heads.

00:45:16.3 Anita Pointer:

Yeah.

00:45:16.9 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah, so, did it get better in the ‘80s?

00:45:18.8 Fritz Pointer:

I think Richard Perry is involved, right, Anita?

00:45:23.2 Anita Pointer:

Yes, it is. When we started doing the fire…the Energy album with Fire, Fire was our very first gold single, because with all the albums we did with David Rubinson, we never had a gold single. We had gold albums, but we didn’t have a gold single, and a gold single made such a difference because, I mean, because kids…

00:45:43.8 Michele Goodwin:

Tell us why

00:45:45.6 Anita Pointer:

Kids will buy singles, you know? Adults will buy albums, but kids bought singles, and it really just propelled us into a whole other level when we had that hit with Fire. It was Springsteen inspired. That was really a cool thing.

00:46:00.5 Michele Goodwin:

Yes, and that is, and I’m hearing it right now. Oh, yes, burn and burn.

00:46:08.7 Fritz Pointer:

You know, Michele, that was another challenge, too.

00:46:08.8 Anita Pointer:

I’m ridin’ in your car.

00:46:12.3 Fritz Pointer:

Because they were also told Black girls don’t sing rock and roll. You can’t do country. You can’t do rock and roll.

00:46:21.4 Michele Goodwin:

But you look at that, and you were just about to give us a little bit of Fire, Anita.

00:46:33.2 Anita Pointer:

You heard me, you heard me. “I’m riding’ in your car. You turn on the radio. You’re pullin’ me close. I just say no. I say I don’t like it, but you know I’m a liar, cause when we kiss, ooh, fire.”

00:46:56.4 Michele Goodwin:

Oh, that is brilliant. Thank you so much.

00:47:00.5 Fritz Pointer:

And Michele, the other one that became what they call, like, a female National Anthem, Slow Hand.

00:47:07.1 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Okay.

00:47:11.2 Fritz Pointer:

There’s a whole lot of women tripping about that.

00:47:13.0 Anita Pointer:

Okay, I know.

00:47:14.7 Michele Goodwin:

I know. I was wondering if Anita could give us a little bit of Slow Hand.

00:47:20.1 Anita Pointer:

Oh, lord. Let’s see, y’all. “As the midnight moon was drifting through the lazy sway of the trees, I saw the look in your eyes lookin’ into mine, seeing what you wanted to see. Darlin’ don’t say a word, cause I already heard what your body’s sayin’ to mine. I’m tired of fast moves. I’ve got a slow groove on my mind. I want a man with a slow hand. I want a lover with an easy touch. I want somebody who will spend some time, not come and go in a heated rush. I want somebody who will understand. When it comes to love, I want a slow hand.”

00:48:14.0 Michele Goodwin:

Wow.

00:48:14.3 Anita Pointer:

That’s the truth.

00:48:15.2 Fritz Pointer:

You guys are amazing. You know, I was trying my little harmony, and I couldn’t get there.

00:48:20.5 Michele Goodwin:

I wasn’t even going to try, audience, yeah.

00:48:26.0 Fritz Pointer:

And Michele, the way they all stand on stage again is according to…I guess what do you call it when you sing soprano or a tenor or a bass, because…what? They have a name for that I thought, you know, but anyway, you know, Ruth sings the low notes. Anita’s next, and then comes Bonnie, and then June sings the high notes. So it just kind of worked out organically.

00:48:51.9 Michele Goodwin:

And it worked.

00:48:51.8 Anita Pointer:

No, it was really Ruth, Bonnie, then me, and then June.

00:48:55.3 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, and then June. Oh.

00:48:56.8 Anita Pointer:

I sang higher than Bonnie. I was above Bonnie.

00:48:59.1 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, were you?

00:49:00.5 Anita Pointer:

Yeah.

00:49:01.8 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, teach the brother something there.

00:49:04.3 Anita Pointer:

I mean, Bonnie had one of those parts…if you got a four-part harmony, you got to kind of filter in on…and Bonnie was so gifted, so talented with doing that, sometimes she would be singing higher than me, but as a rule, I had the soprano. June had the top soprano.

00:49:24.8 Fritz Pointer:

You had the contralto soprano.

00:49:27.5 Anita Pointer:

And Bonnie had an alto, and Ruth had the bass.

00:49:32.2 Michele Goodwin:

So let’s talk about the successes then, right? So, what are we talking about in terms of the path breaking-ness, the Grammys and whatnot?

00:49:43.2 Anita Pointer:

Talk about what now?

00:49:43.7 Michele Goodwin:

Yeah, your Grammys. So, what have you won Grammys for, like the successes that came about from your music, right? You know, I’m thinking about the Grammy, you know, for the country music and so much more, right, that people don’t necessarily associate or not.

00:50:00.4 Fritz Pointer:

Maybe she should talk a little bit in participation in things like We Are the World.

00:50:05.9 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Yes. Exactly. That was huge, too.

00:50:09.1 Anita Pointer:

That was. That was good.

00:50:12.3 Michele Goodwin:
Yes. That was absolutely huge.

00:50:12.7 Anita Pointer:

What a night. What a night. Went in the night at A&M Studios, and the sign at the door said leave your egos at the door, and everybody came in…

00:50:22.0 Michele Goodwin:

You know, people may not remember that.

00:50:26.3 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, but there was a night of just, you know, everybody you could…Stevie Wonder, Harry Belafonte, Quincy Jones, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, you know, and I got the chance to spend the night with all these fabulous men.

00:50:45.4 Michele Goodwin:

But it’s amazing to think about just those enormous and impactful successes. Yes, Fritz?

00:50:52.7 Fritz Pointer:

Yeah, and you know, Michelle, what comes to mind, too, is their refusal to play South Africa, because sometimes you sacrifice your, you say, hey, the money…

00:51:04.2 Anita Pointer:

Because the money is good. The money’s good, so, you know, and we’re hot now, so let’s go, regardless of what they’re done to my people. That is not cool at all.

00:51:14.9 Michele Goodwin:

And so you all made those decisions, as well, that there were going to be places that you would refuse to play no matter what money…

00:51:23.1 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, apartheid.

00:51:24.5 Michele Goodwin:

Yes.

00:51:25.0 Anita Pointer:

I’m telling you. If I was out of the country, I might refuse to play in the United States.

00:51:32.5 Michele Goodwin:

Well, there are people thinking about those decisions, you know?

00:51:35.8 Anita Pointer:

It is so wrong. Everything needs to change, they need to scrap it and start all over again.

00:51:42.5 Michele Goodwin:

Well, you know, this is interesting, too, because, you know, the backdrop, what these times mean…you know, January 6, we saw the insurrection at the Nation’s Capitol. We were in the backdrop of not only the tragic killing of George Floyd, but also Breonna Taylor, and just lists of people, you know?

00:52:04.6 Anita Pointer:

All the way from Trayvon Martin to Rodney King.

Fritz Pointer:

Oscar Grant.

00:52:07.5 Michele Goodwin:

Absolutely. All of that, and…

00:52:12.0 Anita Pointer:

Oh, there’s so many.

00:52:13.4 Michele Goodwin:

And in thinking about your refusal to play in South Africa, you know, I’m thinking about Laura Ingraham, who is a television personality, who told LeBron James that he should “shut up and dribble” after he spoke about the challenges that come with being Black in America. Right, and it seems to me that you all made…even though you were entertaining, you were bringing such great music to people, you were also making important political points, as well, and that’s what we also get from your music. Before we wrap up, because this has gone by way too quickly…way too quickly…

00:52:51.5 Anita Pointer:

Been fun.

00:52:52.7 Michele Goodwin:

But you know, I also want to ask about loss, because there’s also been loss over time, too, and how have you dealt with loss, because The Pointer Sisters, you started off as four, and over time, you’ve had sisters who’ve passed away. So, how has that been?

00:53:12.7 Anita Pointer:

Very hard. It started off with the loss of my daughter, my only child, and that whole decade. From 2000 when my mom died, 2003, my daughter died, 2006, my sister died, and it just…that whole decade was just horrible. It was really, really, really bad, and I mean, it’s been now 18 years since my daughter died, but I’m still thinking about it every single day. I cry a lot about her. I miss her so, so much, and the same with my sisters. I miss them especially, right now, it’s kind of focused on Bonnie because it’s so fresh. Yesterday was her anniversary of her death. She died June 8, 2020.

Bonnie Pointer in 1974. (Wikimedia Commons)

00:54:02.2 Fritz Pointer:

That’s right. That’s her picture back there, by the way, Michele.

00:54:05.6 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, of her behind me.

00:54:06.3 Michele Goodwin:

What a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, image.

00:54:09.7 Anita Pointer:

My baby sister. God, I loved her, and it’s not easy. You know, I had to find new ways to do things because we were doing so much together, and it’s a whole different way of thinking about things now when I don’t have her here and her to bounce things off of and can’t call her, and you know, we had gotten really, really close, and it’s just sad.

00:54:37.5 Fritz Pointer:

Issa’s dad, whom you know well and we both know well, who were with him in his last hours and minutes, actually, wrote poems for each of those deaths.

00:54:49.1 Anita Pointer:

They sure did.

00:54:50.0 Fritz Pointer:

Wrote a poem for my mother. Wrote a poem for June and wrote a beautiful poem for…

00:54:56.2 Anita Pointer:

There was one for Jada. Yes, every time I read it, I cry.

00:54:59.6 Fritz Pointer:

Yeah, it’s a beautiful poem. So, people will enjoy that, too, about the book in terms of its variety. The photos are fantastic.

00:55:10.1 Michele Goodwin:

The photos are absolutely amazing in the book. They are absolutely great. The end and this picture of Bonnie on the cover of JET?

00:55:20.1 Fritz Pointer:

Oh, yeah. Yeah.

00:55:21.1 Anita Pointer:

Yeah. Yeah.

00:55:22.3 Michele Goodwin:

Oh, yes, that’s power there.

00:55:26.8 Fritz Pointer:

By the way, Michele, can I mention, too, that along with our stellar congresspeople, like Barbara Lee and Ron Dellums, Kamala Harris also attended our father’s church.

Rev. Elton Pointer. (The Pointer Sisters / Twitter)

00:55:39.5 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Yes. Yes.

00:55:41.3 Fritz Pointer:

That was something we just found out about. Yeah, we’re hoping that she learned some lessons there.

00:55:50.3 Anita Pointer:

That will help her.

00:55:51.1 Fritz Pointer:

After this, she’s going to Guatemala and telling the Guatemalans to stay home.

00:55:55.8 Anita Pointer:

Oh, I know. I know, that was kind of crude. They said they’re going to try to work on giving them reason to not want to go, and saying if that can happen, that would be ideal, of course, so then we’ve taken some of the jobs down there instead of sitting on the Thailand.

00:56:14.2 Fritz Pointer:

You know, so wherever. That’s right.

00:56:15.6 Anita Pointer:

Wherever they send them to.

00:56:19.3 Michele Goodwin:

So much of your music…

00:56:19.3 Anita Pointer:

Not Thailand. I love Thailand. I forgot.

00:56:26.2 Michele Goodwin:

So much of your music has been about liberation and about uplift and liberation for people of color, liberation for women, women of color, Black women, and one just can’t help but celebrate that. In the book, one can’t help but just notice all of the awards that you’ve won. 1981 Grammy Pop Performance for a Duo or Group. 1982 R&B Performance Duo or a Group. 1982 Pop Performance Duo or a Group. R&B ’86 Best Pop Performance for a Duo or a Group. 1975 Country Music Performance by a Duo or a Group. 1985 Vocal Arrangements for Two or More Voices. 1985 Pop Performance by Duo or a Group, and so much more. I mean, there are accolades that you all are just shy about, but I want to lift them out to the world and to our readers.

00:57:22.8 Fritz Pointer:

Thank you.

00:57:23.5 Anita Pointer:

Thank you, Michele.

00:57:24.6 Michele Goodwin:

Oh, absolutely. Got to drop the coins.

00:57:26.9 Fritz Pointer:

Thank you. Thank you.

00:57:28.2 Michele Goodwin:

I think one of the highlights of your memoir, which you don’t see in a lot of memoirs, they give you just a taste of a few photos, but you know, audience, you get your hands on this book, and page 176 through page 241, you get just wonderful, beautiful photos that show the family, that show them on the stage, and you get a chance to see how you can be…

00:57:57.7 Anita Pointer:

In church.

00:58:00.0 Michele Goodwin:

Yes, in church. How you can be collective and individual at the same time. I mean, I think that there are more books within this book yet to be written just in terms of how so many…

00:58:13.2 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, you’re right about that.

00:58:13.6 Michele Goodwin:

Women today write…one, they say, you know, they struggle from imposter syndrome. They wonder, you know, how they can be the fullness of themselves and so much more. So, I’m hoping we have another conversation about all of this, but before we close, the last question, which we ask all of our guests, is about a silver lining, and we are celebrating and recognizing Juneteenth. We’re excited about it. We are celebrating The Pointer Sisters, and I’m just wondering what you see as silver linings coming forward from Arkansas to Oakland and around the whole world? I’ll start with you, Fritz. What’s a silver lining coming forward?

00:58:56.2 Fritz Pointer:

Well, Michele, for me, I’m hoping that the industry will be more open and receptive to artists in a variety of genres, that they will not limit artists and box them in. I’m hoping that they’ll be more receptive to them. I’m thinking now of this young Black female saxophonist by the name of Jaszmin Ghent, and I’m also thinking of this new country western singer who did the song Black Like Me, I think is what it’s called.

00:59:31.1 Anita Pointer:

Oh yeah. Love that one.

00:59:30.2 Michele Goodwin:

Oh, yeah. She’s wonderful.

00:59:32.8 Anita Pointer:

Yeah, I agree.

00:59:33.0 Fritz Pointer:

Yeah, and so, I’m hoping that they will open up more and be more receptive to the variety that people bring to the industry and not just be so closed-minded and restrictive and try to lock people into one particular…I think it was Herbie Hancock who said that, you know, to limit artists to one mode of expression is a crime, and I think so, too. I think, you know, to limit artists to just one mode of expression is criminal, and I also think like Nietzsche, who said that life without music would be a mistake.

01:00:09.8 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Yes. Yes.

01:00:09.8 Anita Pointer:

I’ll say. I couldn’t imagine it. I couldn’t imagine a time…I mean, oh my god.

01:00:16.2 Fritz Pointer:

So both are silver linings. My silver lining would be to be more open and less racist.

01:00:22.1 Anita Pointer:

Exactly.

01:00:22.1 Michele Goodwin:

Yes. Yes, and for you, Anita, silver lining going forward?

01:00:28.1 Anita Pointer:

Well, I think that at least we’re now beginning to see a vague closeness to the silver lining because people are opening up and telling the truth, and that’s been needed for so long. I mean, when I watched that thing about the Tulsa Massacre, and they said nobody talked about it. Even the ones who lived in Tulsa, he said I went to school in Tulsa, and I didn’t hear nothing about it in school. Those kind of things that are hidden from this whole culture in America that they’re so great. They rescued everybody. Rescued the Indians from this…they were savages, and we rescued them. No. They need the truth.

01:01:16.3 Michele Goodwin:

Guests and listeners, that’s it for today’s episode of “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin.” I want to thank my guests, Anita and Fritz Pointer, for joining us and being part of this critical and insightful conversation, and to our listeners, I thank you for tuning in for the full story.

We hope you join us again for our next episode, where we will be reporting, rebelling and telling it like it is with special guests talking about the sex talk you wish you got from your parents. Sex Ed 101. Birth control, periods, and more. We’ll be joined by Kelly Davis, Dr. Fatu Forna, I’m such a fan, Mary Emily O’Hara and Jennifer Weiss-Wolf. It will be an episode you will not want to miss. For more information about what we discussed today, head to MsMagazine.com.

If you believe, as we do, that women’s voices matter, that equality for all persons cannot be delayed, and that rebuilding America, being un-bought and un-bossed and reclaiming our time are important, then be sure to rate, review, and subscribe to “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. We are ad-free and listener/reader supported. Help us reach new listeners and bring the hard-hitting content you’ve come to expect by rating, reviewing and subscribing.

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This has been your host Michele Goodwin reporting, rebelling and telling it like it is. “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin” is a Ms. Magazine joint production. Kathy Spillar and Michele Goodwin are our executive producers. Our producers for this episode are Roxy Szal and Mariah Lindsay. We thank Oliver Haug for research and digital assistance. The creative vision behind our work includes art and design by Brandi Phipps, editing by Will Alvarez and Marsh Allen, and music by Chris J. Lee. Stephanie Wilner provides executive assistance.