The Pointer Sisters
8 p.m. Oct. 28
Sound Board at MotorCity Casino Hotel
2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit
So excited and just can’t hide it? Well, no wonder: The Pointer Sisters, the girl group spearheading the ’70s and ’80s disco era with songs like “I’m So Excited” and “Jump (For My Love),” are stepping out for a rare show in Detroit.
Original sisters Anita and Ruth – along with her granddaughter, Sadako (who stands in for the late June) – will perform at 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at Sound Board at MotorCity Casino Hotel. Before their local gig, Ruth, 64, shared her fondest Motown memories, boasted about that golden age in music, and praised the Pointer Sisters’ gay following.
You’re only doing a few shows in the states. But lucky for us, Detroit is one of them. What makes Detroit so special?
Hey, it’s the Motor City. It’s where I feel like it all began, especially for African-American artists with Motown and the Supremes and the Temptations – just so many wonderful classic artists that will never go away.
Do you have memories of performing in Detroit?
One of the memories that stands out is going to the first Motown office and just being in awe of the history, and then later we went to the Joe Louis Arena and performed with Lionel Richie.
What do you miss about that era in music?
For me, it was the best time for music. The music was just so joyful; it wasn’t political, and if it was it was done in such a classy way. I’m thinking of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, who always touched upon political issues but in a discrete way. It left room in your mind for imagination – and hope.
It was a great time to be at the peak of your career, wasn’t it?
Yes, it was! I have no regrets! (Laughs)
Do you think you’d be able to fit in now, with all the Lady Gagas and such?
Oh my god! You know, I would find a way to fit in, but it’s so different now.
You have your granddaughter, so she probably keeps you hip. Are you keeping up with what everyone is listening to these days?
Well, you know, she kind of does. And I have 17-year-old twins now; they keep it current for me.
Your music is particularly huge in the gay community. Were you aware of that following back in the ’70s?
You know, we have a history of having a really huge gay following. We did some of our earliest work with (disco-soul singer and gay drag performer) Sylvester in San Francisco and it was some of the best and most fun times. And, of course, living in the Bay Area and participating in the gay parades there in San Francisco, it’s just always been something that’s been very dear to us. And I mean, our gay friends would come in our dressing room and help us dress, and it’d just be a party in there. Oh my god, so fun!
I tell my 17-year-old daughter, because there are a few students at her school that are gay – and with this bullying going on nowadays and young people committing suicide: “You really, really have to rise above these prejudices.” I said, “Let me tell you something: One of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life was my gay friend, and a girl needs a gay friend.”
How do you feel about the progress we’ve made since the ’70s?
I just can’t understand why people don’t understand that everything changes. And I just choose to go with the flow pretty much and keep my own personal values to myself, but I think a lot of it is just plain narrow-mindedness, ignorance and cruelty.
Why did the group decide to resurface recently?
Well, we never really stopped, we just continued on. When we lost my beloved sister June, my daughter (Issa) stepped in. We’ve performed a lot in Europe and Asia and Australia, and it’s just that we haven’t been very visible publicly in the states. We still do a lot of corporate parties and private parties because I mean, let’s face it, those are the people that are in our own age group and know our songs.
How does performing feel different without June?
June, Anita, Bonnie and myself grew up singing together from a very early age in my dad’s church, and we learned specifically how to sing harmony with one another and how to sing harmony with other people by singing in a choir. It’s something that just comes naturally for us, and I have to say that’s the hardest thing when bringing someone in to sing with me and Anita right now. We have to actually sit down and teach them the part that June was singing note for note. Never had to do that with June. And it’s tough! (Laughs)
Do you plan on recording an album with Sadako?
Hmm… not really. We talk about it from time to time, but the business has changed so much. It’s not like the old days when you just have a record deal and go in the studio and record with a producer and then start promoting.
I think these young people today are so much smarter than we were, and I really have to give it to them; they’ve found a way to make a great living and really make a mark in the business.
What do you think is the Pointer Sisters’ greatest accomplishment?
That’s a tough one. I mean, we were the first African-American females to play the Grand Ole Opry – that’s a huge accomplishment. We do all types of music, I think that’s a great accomplishment – and sometimes it’s been to our determent because we don’t like to be pigeonholed as an R&B group, a pop group, a country group or whatever. We just like singing music.