RIP: Bonnie Pointer

Posted June 8, 2020 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

“Heaven Must Have Sent You” singer and original Pointer Sister dies at the age of 69

Bonnie Pointer, a founding member of the Pointer Sisters who went solo and recorded the disco classic “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” died at the age of 69. She died on Monday, according to her sister, Anita. No cause of death was revealed.

“It is with great sadness that I have to announce to the fans of The Pointer Sisters that my sister, Bonnie died this morning,” Anita wrote in a statement provided to social media and news outlets. “Our family is devastated, on behalf of my siblings and I and the entire Pointer family, we ask for your prayers at this time.”

Growing up in Oakland, California and being raised on gospel music through their connections to church, Bonnie and June Pointer began performing in nightclubs as a pair. Later, the group became a trio after Anita joined. After recording a few singles for Atlantic that went virtually nowhere, the group mrophed into a quartet in 1972 when sister Ruth joined. Signing with Blue Thumb Records in 1973, the group found success with the release of the Allen Toussaint-penned “Yes We Can Can.” They also showcased a glorious potpourri of musical flavors, dipping into ragtime jazz, nostalgia juke joint blues and even country. Their dip into country on 1974’s “Fairytale,” a song Elvis covered, even netted them their very first Grammy win for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.


bonniepointer-00Bonnie eventually left the group and decided to go solo, signing with Motown Records. Around that time, she also married Jeffrey Bowen, who served as co-producer of her two Motown releases alongside Berry Gordy. Although her tenure with Motown was cut short, she came out of it with a glowing disco masterpiece. “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” a beloved Holand-Dozier-Holland selection originally cut on the Elgins in 1966, bloomed into a Studio 54 juggernaut jazzed up with gleamy strings, bells, violins and pop elegance. Bonnie pours out sultry vocals on the opening, reminiscent by Diana Ross and Donna Summer. Towards the end, her love of jazz, particularly for Louis Armstrong, comes out in full bloom. The seven-minute-long disco version of the album version became the preferred favorite, spinning in discotheques across the country, that Motown reissued the album featuring the remix.

Another gem from the album, 1977’s Bonnie Pointer (also referred as the “red” album to), “Free From My Freedom” stuck out for being controversial for focusing on BDSM (“Tie to me to a tree/handcuff me”). The naughty content didn’t stop it from reaching number ten on the R&B charts.

Meanwhile, her sisters entered the stratosphere of superstardom when they began recording with producer Richard Perry for Planet Records. Distributed through RCA, the Pointer Sisters nailed a string of Top Ten pop hits and R&B smashes for almost a decade with songs like “Fire,” “Slow Hand,” “He’s So Shy,” “Jump (For My Love),” “I’m So Excited,” “Automatic,” “Neutron Dance” and “Dare Me.”

Soon after leaving Motown, Bonnie recorded one more album for the CBS subsidiary Private I before entering semi-retirement from the studio. She performed regularly on her own, released an indie album in 2011 (Like a Picasso) and even made a few appearances with her fellow sisters on certain occasions. Two of them to be exact: when the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994, and during a Las Vegas performance in 1996 singing “Jump (for My Love)”.

Bonnie fell on tough times when bouts with drug addiction and troubles with the law took over headlines. In 2011, she was arrested in LA for possession of a controlled substance. After years of being separated, Bonnie filed for Jeffrey Bowen in 2014 and was finalized in 2016.

While sharing warm thoughts of her beloved sister, Anita also wrote that “Bonnie was my best friend and we talked every day. We never had a fight in our life. I already miss her, and I will see her again one day.”

Anita withdrew from performing regularly with the famed group to deal with her own health illness, a bout with cancer.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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