Q&A: Ruth Pointer—‘Still So Excited!: My Life as a Pointer Sister’

RUTH POINTER_BOOK COVERIn Still So Excited!: My Life as a Pointer Sister, singer Ruth Pointer  recounts her life as one-fourth of—and later, one-third—of The Pointer Sisters; with a discography of classic hits like “He’s So Shy,” “Yes We Can Can,” “How Long (Betcha’ Got a Chick on the Side),” and “I’m So Excited,” the Grammy Award-winning sisters from Oakland, California are celebrated as one of music’s most successful, unique, and influential groups of all time. Written with journalist Marshall Terrill, Pointer vividly and engagingly chronicles the group’s beginnings, balancing and taking on challenges of personal and professional relationships, substance abuse and the ups and downs that accompanied having international success and renown in the music industry.

SoulTrain.com spoke with Pointer about her newly-released memoir, President Obama, her ties to Soul Train, and why thanks to her faith, family and fans, she is “still so excited.”   

SoulTrain.com: Why was now the right time to pen your memoir?

Ruth Pointer: I just think I’m at that point in my life where you start assessing life at a certain age and I just felt like it was the right time.

SoulTrain.com: From the outside looking in, it seems that being in a successful girl group comes with its own unique challenges. Are those dynamics different when the women are related?

Ruth Pointer: I think it’s different because we care more, or we did, anyway. It’s just more of an emotional connection. I’ve run across people in my travels who have often said to me, “I don’t see how you can work with your sisters” or “I could never work with my sisters.” And I get that, but it all the more makes me know that we had something really special.

SoulTrain.com: The ease in which the Pointer Sisters were able to seamlessly cross various musical genres is well documented in the book. Talk about why you consciously diversified your music and style.

Ruth Pointer: We didn’t want to be pigeonholed into any category. Just in our observation of the music industry, we saw how people were categorized because of their gender or their race. We were trying to accomplish something that we hadn’t seen happen before, especially for African-Americans. We didn’t want just an R&B audience or just a pop audience. We wanted to appeal to everybody.

SoulTrain.com: President Obama’s campaign slogan during his historic run was “Yes We Can” and not surprisingly, one of your biggest hits, “Yes We Can Can,” became synonymous with it and was often heard in the background at rallies, in commercials, etc. The group reached out to his camp to see if anyone would consider using the song in an official capacity but you never heard back from anyone. Were you disappointed?

Ruth Pointer: We were so disappointed because we had relatives who worked in his office and on his campaign. They tried desperately to get that song to him but it just didn’t happen. Even afterwards, we thought that maybe somewhere down the line during his presidency, we would get a chance to go to the White House and meet him for some reason or another, but that never happened.

SoulTrain.com: In addition to your career, the book also addresses the effect that substance abuse had on both your professional and personal life, especially where your children were concerned. Talk more about the demands of your career and trying to be a parent, amid everything else you were going through.

Ruth Pointer: It really got frustrating. There were times when I didn’t want to go on the road. But one of the major reasons I wanted to write the book is because I had some dark periods in my life where I thought I might not make it. One of the driving forces for me to try to go in a different direction was because of my children. I have five children and I love them hard and I love them with everything I have. Things may not have always been right but I did the best I could and I still do the best I can. When I saw them watch me—as their only role model—my first three children didn’t have a father at home—I was trying to be everything for them as far as making a living for them and keeping a roof over their head and keeping them clothed and fed. But it never occurred to me how important it was for them to be directed by the life that I lived in front of them.

SoulTrain.com: The Pointer Sisters had very close ties to Don Cornelius and Soul Train. Tell us more about that relationship and being involved with the show. 

Ruth Pointer: When I saw the name “Soul Train” on my schedule for an interview, I immediately thought about Don. It’s one of my treasures to have been a part of Soul Train. I had a really great experience with a young lady named Aida Chapman, who used to be an associate producer on the show back in the ‘70s. We lived in the same apartment building—the first one I had when I lived in Los Angeles. The Pointer Sisters had done the show and when she found out I lived in her building, she came down and introduced herself and we became friends right away. She was actually responsible for our part in the movie Car Wash, too. We always had wonderful experiences related to Soul Train. It was just a good time. I really miss shows like Soul Train and American Bandstand being on television. They were so fun.

SoulTrain.com: Your 1984 hit “Automatic” marked your debut as the group’s lead vocalist. While you waited your turn to sing lead, how were you able to remain patient for so long?

Ruth Pointer: I kind of always respected that place; I was well aware that I was the last one to come in the group and I “knew my place,” so to speak. We all had very strong personalities and I didn’t want to get into a fight with my sisters about it. I remember once having a few verbal confrontations with my sisters because we were trying to figure out who would sing lead on a particular song. The song, which I cannot remember, was about relationships and I recall flexing a bit because I didn’t think the two younger ones deserved to sing a song about relationships; I mean, what did they know about that? But they quickly put me in my place! So since that didn’t work, I decided to back up and just wait my turn.

SoulTrain.com: As illustrious and diverse as your career was, during the group’s heyday, was there anyone you wanted to record or collaborate with but didn’t?

Ruth Pointer: I really can’t be sure, but I think a lot of the dynamic people that I probably would have loved to collaborate with came after us, like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Flo Rida and Timbaland. And I just love Kanye West. I just love those rhythms they create!

SoulTrain.com: You know it might surprise some people that you like hip-hop…

Ruth Pointer: Well, now I’m very selective about the hip-hop I love, but when I love it, I really do love it.

SoulTrain.com: What do you want fans to take away from the book?

Ruth Pointer: I just want people to take away that we were real and that we were hard working women who just wanted to bring a lot of joy to people. Whatever was going on behind the scenes for us didn’t matter; when it came time to hit that stage and make our audiences feel good, we were happy and honored to do that.

–LaShawn Williams

LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast who has a serious thing for stand-up comedy, music and dance. Follow her on Twitter: @MsWilliamsWorld.

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