Sly and the Family Stone vocalist and trumpeter Cynthia Robinson has died from cancer at 69. The founding member was the musician who told fans to “get up and dance to the music” on 1968 hit Dance to the Music. But she should be known for much more than that: she was one of the first Black female trumpet players to “lead a major American band,” according to BET, and a well-respected veteran musician.
Born in Sacramento, California, Robinson joined the band — initially known as the Stoners — in 1966 and continued working with Sly and the Family Stone until its end in 1975. Billboard reported the sad news, noting that her cancer diagnosis and the establishment of the Cynthia Robinson Cancer Care Fund was first announced in October.
“She covered a lot of ground,” said Martini to Billboard. “She was the first female trumpet player and the first African-American trumpet player in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She wasn’t in the back. She was out front telling you to get up and dance to the music, and she could blow with the best of ’em, always.”
While best known for her time in Sly & the Family Stone, she continued her music career afterwards in Family Stone bassist Larry Graham’s band Graham Central Station. Over the years, she has also worked with George Clinton, Prince, and in Sinbad’s Aruba Summer Soul Festival. More recently, she has performed as part of the Family Stone with saxophonist Jerry Martini and drummer Gregg Errico since 2006.
Her daughter, Sylvette Phunne Stone, has also performed with the Family Stone. Just this year, she sang lead vocals with her daughter on the Family Stone single Do Yo Dance.
In a post on Cynthia Robinson’s Facebook page, representatives for Robinson expressed condolences for the Robinson Family and her bandmates and asked fans to support the Cynthia Robinson Cancer Care Fund.
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