The Pointer Sisters experienced one of the fastest breakthroughs of the 1970s when they shot to fame with well-known hit songs including ‘I’m So Excited’ and ‘Jump’ – but group member Ruth had to pay a hard price for her time in the limelight.
Speaking exclusively with Starts at 60, the now 72-year-old singer has revealed the devastating decision she was forced to make in the midst of battling drug and alcohol addiction, all while splitting from a turbulent marriage and dealing with the pressures of fame.
Ruth starred alongside her sisters June, Bonnie and Anita in the band – before Bonnie dropped out and left the fame to her siblings. They enjoyed huge success throughout the 1970s and early ’80s, before going their separate ways.
However for Ruth, the sudden stardom was a far cry from her previous life and as she struggled to come to terms with the fame, she descended into a downward spiral of drink and drugs – forcing her to make a difficult decision about her children Faun and Malik, who she had in her early twenties with first husband Larry Woods.
Embarking on a tour with her sisters, Ruth chose to ask her parents to temporarily care for the youngsters while she was gone – meaning she spent long periods of time away from them when they were growing up.
In fact, she previously described it as “abandonment” in an interview with Pop Matters, and asked by Starts at 60 if that has affected their long-term relationship with each other now, Ruth said: “Absolutely… I know that it did. First of all, when they get old enough they’ll tell you that it did! They’ll make comments like, ‘Well you’re never here’, or, ‘Leaving again are you’?”
Ruth has managed to grow closer to her oldest two children again now, but she admitted there will always be an emotional gap between them due to their childhoods without her.
“It’s the guilt that kills me every time,” she added. “I was naive about that too until I had my later children, especially my youngest twins – they’re now 25-years-old.”
The singer, who has been married five times, welcomed her third child Issa in 1978 with former Temptations member Dennis Edwards before having her youngest twins, Conor and Ali, with her current husband Michael Sayles in 1993.
“From being able to raise them [the twins] a little differently – which is what I set out to do – I learned a whole lot about what my being away from the first two, and even three, what a difference it made,” she explained.
“I’ve been watching some of the younger generation of performers go through that today, and I’m thinking wow. I know that women want to have it all, but sometimes you just can’t have it all, all the time. You have to pick your priorities.”
Ruth admitted it’s moments like when she previously drove her youngest daughter to dance classes, or her son to karate, that made her realise her oldest kids never had her to do that all those years ago.
“All those little things that you don’t think are important because you are out there working and making a living, actually take a major toll on the relationship.”
While she’s open about her past regrets, Ruth said it was her love of her children that eventually helped her overcome her battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
The singer was diagnosed with viral meningitis in 1984 and rushed to hospital. The sudden health scare also helped her find the courage to finally beat her demons – but her real motivation remained her kids.
“More than anything it was my children,” she said. “I was a single mother for most of my years, and I felt like my children only had me to depend on, to support them. I thought, ‘My children are watching me’. They were young adults at that point, and I saw them going down the same road. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
“I said, ‘It’s like looking in a mirror’. I said to myself, ‘You need to change something if you want the outcome to be different to yours, you need to change something’.”
After splitting from her sisters in the ’80s, Ruth has continued to perform over the years with different line-ups of the band and will now return to Australia alongside her daughter Issa and granddaughter Sadako for the Summer Series Disco and Motown tour, alongside The Jacksons, Kool & The Gang and Village People.
The tour will kick off in January 2019, to buy tickets visit the official MJR website here.