Bonnie Pointer, founding member of ’70s vocal group the Pointer Sisters, has died at 69. TMZ reports that her sister (and former groupmate) Anita Pointer confirmed Bonnie’s passing, saying, “It is with great sadness that I have to announce to the fans of The Pointer Sisters that my sister, Bonnie died this morning. Our family is devastated, on behalf of my siblings and I and the entire Pointer family, we ask for your prayers at this time.”
Bonnie and June Pointer, who grew up singing gospel music in West Oakland, started their eponymous group in the late ’60s, first performing as Pointers, A Pair. By 1972, both Anita and Ruth Pointer had also joined the fold, bringing the sibling group to a quartet. With a unique sound that blended jazz, soul, funk, rock and country, the group signed to Blue Thumb Records and released their self-titled debut album in 1973.
The self-titled set was a hit, making it to No. 13 on the Billboard 200 album charts and spawning a pair of Hot 100 hits in the funky, Allen Toussaint-penned “Yes We Can Can” (No. 11) and the roaring “Wang Dang Doodle” (No. 61). The group’s 1974 sophomore effort That’s a Plenty featured appearances from musical luminaries like Herbie Hancock and Bonnie Raitt, and spawned another top 20 hit in the country ballad “Fairytale” (penned by Bonnie and Anita), which also won the quartet their first Grammy, for best country vocal performance by a duo or group.
Third LP Steppin’ also found the group success, spawning their third Hot 100 top 20 hit (and first R&B Songs No. 1) in the snapping R&B rejoinder “How Long (Betcha’ Got a Chick on the Side).” All three of the group’s biggest crossover hits to that point featured lead vocals from Anita, and in 1977, Bonnie would leave the group (along with June, who shortly rejoined) to start a solo career. She signed to Motown — where she met in-house producer and future husband Jeffrey Bowen, who she was married to from 1978 until the mid-’10s — and scored a disco crossover hit in 1979 with the rapturous, No. 11-peaking Elgins cover “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” off her self-titled debut LP.
Bonnie’s solo success slowed down as the decade turned to the ’80s, while the refortified Pointer Sisters experienced their biggest pop hits. But she continued to be a presence on the R&B Songs chart, notching six entries between 1979 and 1985, and rejoined her sisters twice in the ’90s — when they received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994, and for a Las Vegas live performance of ’80s Pointer Sisters hit “Jump (For My Love) in 1996. Her fourth and final solo album, Like a Picasso, was released in 2011.
“Bonnie was my best friend and we talked every day, we never had a fight in our life,” Anita Pointer told TMZ of her sister. “I already miss her and I will see her again one day.”