Book Review - Ruth Pointer - Still So Excited!: My Life as a Pointer Sister

Book Review
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Still So Excited!: My Life as a Pointer Sister
By Ruth Pointer and Marshall Terrill

Few vocal groups have successfully and expertly explored as many genres of popular music as the Pointer Sisters. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, the soulful quartet (and later trio) deftly delivered seamless harmonies to the tune of funk, jazz, rock, country, pop-dance, and R&B—in the process capturing the hearts of fans of each respective style. And even though the Pointers haven’t recorded a new album of original material for over two decades, their steady touring schedule year after year has kept their legacy burning strong. That’s why Ruth Pointer’s autobiography, Still So Excited!, is a most precious offering which will help the group’s dedicated listeners understand more fully the scope of the sisters’ careers—and how remarkable their achievements have been amidst a barrage of tumultuous personal circumstances along the way.

Still So Excited!: My Life as a Pointer Sister
By Ruth Pointer and Marshall Terrill

Few vocal groups have successfully and expertly explored as many genres of popular music as the Pointer Sisters. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, the soulful quartet (and later trio) deftly delivered seamless harmonies to the tune of funk, jazz, rock, country, pop-dance, and R&B—in the process capturing the hearts of fans of each respective style. And even though the Pointers haven’t recorded a new album of original material for over two decades, their steady touring schedule year after year has kept their legacy burning strong. That’s why Ruth Pointer’s autobiography, Still So Excited!, is a most precious offering which will help the group’s dedicated listeners understand more fully the scope of the sisters’ careers—and how remarkable their achievements have been amidst a barrage of tumultuous personal circumstances along the way.

Still So Excited! is first and foremost a candid telling of Ruth’s personal evolution from childhood to the present; but in the process of relating her story, she shares a thorough examination of the Sisters’ music catalog, as well as eye-opening details of the late June Pointer’s lifelong struggles and heartbreaking demise. All of these aspects are balanced in a manner that is straightforward, authentic, and well-researched without resorting to the dramatic tone and sensationalism to which some entertainment biographies fall victim. From the siblings’ strict, church-bound upbringing to the destructive relationships and neglected familial duties that grew out of wild rebellion and years of drug abuse, Ruth relates the inner chaos and outer tensions that developed concurrent to the sisters’ rise to fame during the mid-‘70s.

From both musical and professional standpoints, one of the most interesting discussions is that of David Rubinson’s role in honing the Pointers’ style and building a foundation for their first blast of success through five years with his Blue Thumb label. While the relationship provided the group with a strong musical identity, unprecedented firsts (performing at the Grand Ole Opry), and a slew of memorable experiences (the Zaire ’74 mega-concert, filming Car Wash with Richard Pryor), there were also underlying astrictions resulting from uncertain financial arrangements and expectations of living up to a preset style and image. Even as the Pointers moved into the next defining phase of their career (a ten-year run with producer Richard Perry and Planet Records), the emotional toll of a constantly demanding work schedule and coping with unaddressed psychological wounds played out in the form of June’s more than occasional absence from the group and several ill-fated marriages for Ruth—which, as she impartially accounts, translated into her absence in the lives of her children for many years.

During her detailing of the group’s meteoric second run of the early- to mid-‘80s, Ruth states, “I don’t know if it was a fluke or some sort of weird karma, but it seemed that whenever my personal life was in shambles (which was oftener than not), things started going great for the Pointer Sisters.” Indeed, the sisters broke down multiple barriers when they became MTV sensations thanks to a string of hit videos from their landmark Break Out album: “Jump (for My Love),” “Neutron Dance,” and “I’m So Excited,” to name a few. It was during this time that Ruth’s substance abuse brought her to the brink of death and forced her to take a look at realities she had resisted dealing with for years. A two-week stay at the UCLA Medical Center during which Esther Phillips died at age 48 from causes stemming from drug abuse was the ultimate red flag: “That beat all to hell any warning from the doctors about where I was headed if I didn’t change my ways.”

While Ruth’s turbulent marriage to Dennis Edwards would years later be redeemed with forgiveness and recovery, the fate of Bonnie’s and June’s matrimonial alliances brought about much more damage and abuse, often almost at the price of the Pointers’ professional reputation. Additionally, Ruth puts into perspective how the group’s fall from commercial grace during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s coincided with June’s heightened dependency on crack and painkillers—a hard pill to swallow in the wake of other devastating family losses. On the brighter side, Ruth, Anita, and Ruth’s daughter Issa rebuilt the Pointers brand beginning in the early 2000s with a series of high-profile appearances overseas and the re-recording of their classics on their own label.

Happily, Ruth Pointer’s own story is one of finding her self-worth and living a healthy and balanced life. The tone running through Still So Excited! is one comprised of true energy, frankness, realism, and thankfulness. Importantly, in contrast to some artist biographies ripe with careless errors regarding the sequence and finer points of musical timelines, the book provides a well-tempered look into each phase of the Pointers’ recording output, replete with colorful commentary on both the artistic and commercial performance of the respective songs and albums. Devoted fans will come away with a new grasp of the how’s and why’s behind the group’s dynamic highs and lows, as well as inspiration from Ruth’s hard-knock path from addiction and helplessness to grace and spiritual prosperity. Highly recommended.

by Justin Kantor
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