Ruth Pointer And Jane Fonda

The Pointer Sisters

The Pointer Sisters made a lasting impact on popular music during the 1970s and ’80s, embodying ideals of freedom and self-expression that informed liberation politics at that time. Their sound was heavily influenced by gospel music from Oakland, California – an influence which continues to shape their sound today.

The sisters had the unique opportunity to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, an iconic venue that acknowledged their Black identity and commitment to liberation politics. By performing here, they challenged racialized spaces and stereotypes prevalent within country music at that time.

Their first crossover success came with the 1973 single “Yes We Can Can,” which reached just below the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10. As it’s a song that anyone can sing, it served as an ideal gateway for them to break into popular music and gain notoriety.

After that, their sound began to evolve. It became more experimental, incorporating elements of funk and disco into their music – this shift being especially apparent with their album We Are the World.

This album was an enormous hit and catapulted the Pointer Sisters to fame. They earned themselves a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Group as well as their first platinum record.

They made history as the first African-American group to perform on the Grand Ole Opry and at San Francisco Opera House, plus they recorded at Warner Brothers studios in Los Angeles.

Another notable development in their music was that they began experimenting with singing with various voices and adding instrumental elements into songs. This marked a major step forward for their sound, leading them to what many consider their best work.

The Pointer Sisters’ music had a distinctive blend of vocal and instrumental elements that was unique to their career. It had its roots in gospel music and the West Coast’s experimental music scene of the late 1960s.


The Pointer Sisters were profoundly inspired by vocalese, a new style of jazz that evolved out of scat. Unlike scat, vocalese featured intricate vocal improvisations based on instrumental solos performed by jazz musicians. This movement demonstrated how jazz vocalists broke away from standard popular song repertoire and projected an image of their own creative freedom through their vocal performances.

This kind of experimentation with vocal sounds and instrumentation sounded very similar to the work of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock and Kraftwerk. It combined elements from soul, funk and disco into a unified recipe that represented the musical technologies and electronic influences that shaped popular music in the 1970s.

This new wave of music experimentation combined the soul and funk elements that had become popular, with polyrhythmic grooves and metronomic rhythms from jazz and disco. The Pointer Sisters were particularly pioneering in this regard, using their gospel-infused vocals to contribute to this crossover success of this movement.

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