June Pointer's Grammy-winning career began, literally, with a "Fairytale." Its ending was another story.
The singer, whose years of drug abuse prompted her expulsion from the family business that is the Pointer Sisters, died Tuesday at a Los Angeles hospital, the group's official Website said. The cause of death was cancer.
Pointer, the youngest of the performing siblings, and a key spark to their hits such as "I'm So Excited," "Neutron Dance," and "Jump (For My Love)," was 52.
According to a family statement, Pointer died "in the arms of her sisters, Ruth and Anita, and [with] her brothers, Aaron and Fritz, by her side."
Another sister, Bonnie, was said to have been with the ailing June "in spirit."
Last year, June Pointer was ordered to rehab after pleading guilty to crack cocaine possession. The felony charge stemmed from a 2004 arrest at Bonnie Pointer's Hollywood apartment.
"This isn't a Billie Holiday story," June Pointer told People in 2000 on the eve of a previous rehab stint for crack cocaine addiction. "I want a good ending."
In the beginning, June, Bonnie, Ruth and Anita Pointer were founding partners in an act that became one of the most successful musical groups of the 1970s and 1980s.
First a quartet, then a trio, the Pointer Sisters, an outgrowth of a duo started by June and Bonnie (who left to go solo in 1977), collected three Grammys, five gold albums and two multi-platinum albums in their first 20 years. Even more impressive was the range of their catalog; their songs covered pop, jazz, R&B, country--even Bruce Springsteen (a 1978 cover of his song, "Fire").
"The Pointer Sisters have always faced a crisis in their identity," the Washington Post observed in 1979. "They have dabbled in so many musical streams that, while everybody likes them, nobody knows exactly what to do with them."
Actually, fans had a pretty good idea what to do with them--they bought their music, starting with 1973's self-titled album, The Pointer Sisters. The collection spawned their first hit, "Yes We Can, Can." Other early successes included: "You Gotta Believe," and "Fairytale," a serious steel-guitar lament that earned the sisters from Oakland, California, a 1974 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
The versatile Pointers, who arrived on the scene dressed as if they'd stepped out the 1940s, achieved their greatest success as pop/dance divas. Their 1983 album, Break Out, made them first-generation MTV stars, scored them two Grammys and put them on the charts with "Jump (For My Love)," "Automatic" and "I'm So Excited." Another Break Out hit, "Neutron Dance," helped set the 1984 Eddie Murphy comedy, Beverly Hills Cop, in motion. And when "We Are the World" united music's biggest stars in 1985 for an all-star jam, the Pointer Sisters were on the invite list.
With the Pointer Sisters breaking out, June Pointer branched out with two solo albums, a 1985 Playboy pose and a 1987 helping hand to Bruce Willis--she dueted with the then-Moonlighting star on his singing debut (and swan song), The Return of Bruno.
In an 1987 Willis concert review, the New York Times likened a Pointer vocal on "Respect Yourself" to gospel great Mavis Staples, and said she helped reveal the show's ostensive star "as a poseur."
If success was a constant for Pointer, so were drugs. In her mid-40s, she told People they'd been with her "almost every day since I was 13." She used marijuana, cocaine and prescription pills before discovering the "fast, cheap high" of crack cocaine in the late 1990s.
While the Pointer Sisters' chart-topping days were behind them in the 1990s, their touring dates were not. By 2000, sisters Anita and Ruth moved to expel long-troubled June from the group. Three years later, Ruth's daughter, Issa, was called on to round out the trio. Said the group's official Website, tactfully: "June is no longer a member of the Pointer Sisters. She is pursuing a solo career."
Born Nov. 30, 1953, in Oakland, June Pointer married once and divorced. She had no children.