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USA: Sly and the Family Stone Co-Founder Cynthia Robinson Dies at 69

By Karen Sullivan | Gwennmusic

Cynthia Robinson, trumpeter, vocalist and co-founder of Sly and the Family Stone, has passed away after battling cancer. She was 69.

When Cynthia Robinson tooted her own horn, the world stood in awe. And Monday, the world lost one of its greatest trumpet players. Robinson died at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer, according to a post on her Facebook page.

Robinson’s death was announced on her Facebook page early Monday (Nov. 23) morning. The mother of two was a trailblazer for female musicians. Apart from being a member of the first fully diverse psychedelic funk band, she was one of the first Black female trumpet players to lead a major American band.

Robinson helped found Sly and the Family Stone in the late ‘60s. The collective is known for hits like “I Want to Take You Higher,” “Everybody Is a Star” and “Everyday People,” their first single to simultaneously hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Soul Singles and Hot 100 charts.

After the band dissolved in 1975, Robinson was the only original member to keep working with Family Stone founder Sly Stone. She also played in Family Stone bassist Larry Graham’s Graham Central Station and continued to perform throughout the years. The Family Stone was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

In a 2013 interview, Robinson talked about the lasting impact of the Family Stone’s music. “I know the songs that Sly wrote still have the meaning for those that are living today that weren’t even around when we started playing before, in the beginning,” she said. “His lyrics, to me, if you listen to them, they can form a lifestyle that will leave you a happier person, a better person on this planet. It’s just lyrics to live by.”

Read the Facebook message on Robinson’s passing below.

Cynthia Robinson

Musician/Band · 1,293 Likes

· 12 hrs · Edited ·

Friends, Famliy and Fans through out the world, Cynthia Robinson, Trumpeter and Co- Founder of Sly and The Family Stone has passed.
Our condolences go out to the Robinson Family and her bandmates and all family & friends ! You are in our thoughts and prayers and we are here for you. Please continue to support the Cynthia Robinson Cancer Care Fund due to the rising medical costs ( anything helps ). This site will stay up in her memory. God bless you Cynthia ! https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1612767712320749&id=1422867367977452

All The Squares Go Home.

Goodbye to Cynthia Robinson. Music’s original “hypeman” 20 years before Public Enemy pioneered the “Vice President” position. But she wasn’t just a screaming cheerleading foil to Sly & Freddie’s gospel vocals.

CYNTHIA

She was a KICK ASS trumpet player.

A crucial intricate part of Sly Stone’s utopian vision of MLK’s America: Sly & The Family Stone were brothers & cousins. friends & enemies. black & white. male & female. saint & sinner. common man & superheroes. guarded & vulnerable. poets & punks. hip & square.

She was so cool to us the day we opened up for Sly And The Family Stone she never ever lost a step or a beat. Even when we weren’t so sure if Sly was coming or going during that “comeback” tour (he’d play 20 mins, come onstage and cameo w em for 2 songs, leave, watch them then come back 30 mins later) Cynthia Robinson held that band down. Until her passing The Family Stone was one of the last few RRHOF groups from the 60s in which ALL original members were still present & accounted for. part of me held hope that #LarryGraham would bury the hatchet & return to the fold just one more time (could you imagine HOW powerful a Sly GCS combo coulda been? Even if Sly pulled that 6 song ish you know and I know Prince would be in the wings as pinch hitter and we’d all be the more wiser for it. Cynthia’s role in music history isn’t celebrated enough. Her & sister Rose weren’t just pretty accessories there to “coo” & “shoo wop shoo bob” while the boys got the glory. Naw. They took names and kicked ass while you were dancing in the aisle. Much respect to amazing CynthiaRobinson.

For nine years, Robinson was considered Sly Stone’s “hype woman,” but she was more than that, especially when it came to being a trailblazer. Robinson was one of the first black women to play the trumpet in a major band. And the fact that she played and sang with one of the greatest bands ever adds even more weight to her name.

In an interview from the early ’90s, Robinson spoke about how it wasn’t easy picking up the trumpet as a kid.

“Well, in school, um, kids didn’t, uh, uh, favor it, I guess, because the guys played the saxophones and the trumpets and the drums. And the girls and guys would play other reed instruments and so forth, but usually they get, they just gave me a hard time about playing trumpet,” Robinson stated.

But that didn’t deter Robinson, and she said she sensed that some of the guys she played with when she was younger had issues because she was better than them.

“And I think one of the main reasons really wasn’t a guy thing, it was a friend thing. Maybe if we had a challenge, a horn challenge, and his friend who didn’t practice as well, as often, I might beat him out, so I’m sitting in between them and that kinda upset them because then they couldn’t chit-chat and so forth. But it left me with the impression that you know no guy in the world would let a girl play the trumpet in his group. So I just decided, well, I’ll just go to Sax City and take some music courses because I still wanted to play, you know,” Robinson continued.

In a 2013 interview, Robinson said she became better acquainted with Stone after her mother noticed a guitar in his car.

One day he was driving down our street with some friends and he pulled over. I walked over to talk to him, and my mom came out of the house. She saw a guitar in the backseat. She played guitar, but I didn’t know that for a number of years! She asked, “Whose guitar is that?” and Sly said it was his. She asked him to come in and play, but he couldn’t because his cable was broken. She said, “Wait right here,” walked to Tower Records, and bought a cable on the spot! She gave it to him and said, “Now you better be able to play.” Sly and his friends came in—a tall fellow named Daryl, a singer named Jimmy Terrell, and Sly on guitar—and played a song. My mom wanted me to get my mellophone, but I didn’t feel like I could play with them because I didn’t know the latest songs. I joined the band about five years later.

Robinson was picked to join Stone’s band in 1967 and that musical relationship not only birthed six albums, but also a daughter, Phunne Stone.

Robinson’s loyalty to Stone and the band was evident after the band broke up in 1975. Robinson was one of the few original members who continued to play with Stone. Robinson also played with former Family Stone member Larry Graham’s band, Graham Central Station.

As recent as this summer, Robinson was on tour with the Family Stone, and Sly Stone made an appearance.

Robinson is survived by her two daughters, Phunne and Laura Marie, as well as the remaining members of the Family Stone. It’s safe to say that Robinson will be missed and her dynamic music will live on.

© November 2015 GWENNMUSIC