- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2008

Hey Mr. Obama, sir, the Pointer Sisters want you to know they’re keeping Jan. 20 open. See, they’re famous for this song called “Yes We Can Can.” It was a big hit when you were in seventh grade.

Sound familiar, Mr. President-elect? There’s a bit of resemblance to the campaign slogan that put you in the top spot.

Anyway, the sisters are offering their services for your inaugural festivities. They don’t expect to get the inauguration gig itself - we know Aretha Franklin will be singing as you make your way to the podium and Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma will play a new composition by John Williams.

But what about one of the inaugural balls? What do you say? Yes, we can can …

Anyway, the Obama campaign didn’t pick up on the song.

“And we tried our damnedest, too,” says Anita Pointer, laughing on the phone from her home in Los Angeles. “We tried to contact his office and see if we could perform it for him. We really would love to be at that inaugural ball singing ‘Yes We Can Can,’ but we never could get any response from anyone.

“We believe that, and when we started out, that was our theme. You know, yes we can. We found this song [by Allen Toussaint] on an old Lee Dorsey album and said, ‘This is what we want to tell the world.’”

The Pointers still perform the song in their act, of course - it was their first big hit, after all - but they have “medleyized” it with “Betcha Got a Chick on the Side,” which shares the same spare, bass-heavy beat.

“But we’re talking about taking it out and making it a whole song again,” Miss Pointer says. “Cause these words really need to be heard.

“I’m telling you, our first album came out in 1973, and I can’t believe we’re still singin’ those songs and everybody’s lovin’ it.”

The Pointer Sisters are pretty well adjusted to the fact they’re an oldies act.

“We haven’t really added anything new. We’re doing our hits, and once we get through those, the show is over!” Anita Pointer says and chuckles, a husky, infectious sound.

The Pointer Sisters started out as four church-trained singers - Ruth, Anita, June and Bonnie - from Oakland, Calif. They splashed out with a hip ‘40s retro style - shoulder pads, big hats, funky furs from thrift-shop finds - and a sound that mixed in bebop jazz and scat. After Bonnie went solo, the remaining trio assumed a glossier, more contemporary pop-R&B style and scored hits with Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire,” “He’s So Shy,” the sexy “Slow Hand,” “Automatic” and “Jump (For My Love),” which took them through the mid-‘80s.

There was drama, too. Anita lost her daughter Jada - the inspiration for the Pointer song of the same name - to cancer in 2003. Always troubled by drugs and alcohol, sister June, the lead voice in many of the group’s later hits, died of lung cancer in 2006. The surviving sisters have had their disagreements with Bonnie, and, like many recording artists, the Pointers found that their master recordings were locked up by record companies, so they weren’t able to profit directly from repackaged hits compilations.

“After 30 years, they should give every artist their songs back and say, ‘Here, you can make some money now. We’ve made money for all this time, and we didn’t do nothing but sit back and push buttons,’” Anita says. “The artist has been on the low end of the totem pole for so long. So we did what we had to do.”

What they had to do was rerecord a CD of their hits called “The Pointer Sisters | Favorites,” produced by their cousin, famous bass player Nathan East. Anita and Ruth multitracked the vocals, with Anita singing June’s parts.

“We had a great time,” she says. “I really missed going to the studio, because we haven’t had a record deal in a long time. There were a lot of things I couldn’t do that June did. She cannot be replaced.”

The CD is available only at live dates and via the group’s official Web site (www.thepointer sisters.com).

The Pointers are a trio again - Ruth’s daughter Issa (her dad is Dennis Edwards of the Temptations) stepped in when June fell ill. Anita Pointer says a reunion with Bonnie at some point is not out of the question. “There’s always a chance. I would never say never, I wouldn’t say no. I wish that it could happen.”

In the meantime, she says, “I’m telling you, we need to be at one of those balls, singing that song for our new president.”

SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE

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