Bonnie Pointer, who founded 1970s pop group The Pointer Sisters, responsible for hits such as Yes We Can Can, Fairytale and Jump (For My Love), has died aged 69.
The Grammy winner died of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles, publicist Roger Neal said.
Ms Pointer convinced three of her church-singing siblings to form the group in 1969, which would go on to become one of the biggest acts of the next two decades.
“It is with great sadness that I have to announce to the fans of The Pointer Sisters that my sister, Bonnie died this morning,” sister Anita said in a statement.
“Our family is devastated, on behalf of my siblings and I and the entire Pointer family, we ask for your prayers at this time.”
Ruth, Anita, Bonnie and June, born the daughters of a minister who also had two older sons, grew up singing in his church in Oakland, California.
It was Bonnie, shortly after graduating high school, who first wanted to move away from singing gospel songs into clubs to pursue a professional singing career.
She convinced younger sister June to join her, and the two began doing gigs together as a duo in 1969.
Eventually they’d enlist their two older sisters, who were already married with children, to join them.
The quartet brought a unique fusion of funk, soul and 1940s-style jazz, scat and pop to their act, often dressing in a retro style that resembled their forerunners the Andrews Sisters.
“The Pointer Sisters would never have happened had it not been for Bonnie,” Anita said.
They worked as back-up singers for Taj Mahal, Boz Scaggs, Elvin Bishop and others before releasing their self-titled debut album in 1973.
Their second album That’s A Plenty featured an eclectic mix of musical styles ranging from jazz to gospel to pop.
Bonnie and Anita co-wrote the country song Fairytale about a crumbling relationship.
The song earned them a ground-breaking gig, performing as a rare African-American act at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
They would win their first Grammy for the song, for best country vocal performance by a group.
Motown Museum mourns the loss of #Motown alumni Bonnie Pointer, who passed away earlier today. She was known for her high energy, spunk and strong vocal abilities. We send our condolences to her family, friends and fans around the world. pic.twitter.com/qC9fgJZG8G
— Motown Museum (@Motown_Museum) June 8, 2020
Bonnie Pointer left the group in 1977, signing a solo deal with Motown Records, much to the devastation of her sisters.
But, she would have only modest solo success.
Her biggest hit was Heaven Must Have Sent You, a 1979 disco cover of an earlier Motown hit by the Elgins.
It reached 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979.
After making three albums for Motown, she retired and only performed occasionally.
Her three sisters, who had nearly disbanded when she quit, instead regrouped, shed their retro image for a modern pop sound, and became one of the biggest acts of the 1980s with huge hits including He’s So Shy, Jump (For My Love) and Neutron Dance.
Bonnie married Motown producer Jeffrey Bowen in 1978. The two separated in 2004 and divorced in 2016.
She twice reunited with her sisters for public appearances – once in 1994, when they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and again in 1996 at a show in Las Vegas.
June Pointer, the youngest of the sisters, died in 2006.
In addition to Ruth and Anita, Bonnie Pointer is survived by her two older brothers, Aaron and Fritz.