Musician Cynthia Robinson, who was an original member of Sly and the Family Stone, died on Monday at the age of 69. As stated on her official Facebook page, the trumpeter and singer was diagnosed with cancer in October.
A native of Sacramento, California, Cynthia was a big fan of R&B music and the blues. Although she enjoyed listening to the music, she was also inspired to perform.
In an interview with biographer Joel Selvin, which was published by Billboard, Robinson confessed she “used to daydream that [she] was onstage playing the solos.” Inspired by B.B. King, Lowell Fulsom, and Jimmy McCracklin, Robinson aspired to become a musician. However, she did not learn to play the trumpet until after she graduated from high school
Although she played the flute in elementary school, Cynthia later switched to the clarinet — as the high school band “didn’t have any flutes.”
As reported by RookieMag, the teen “didn’t care much” for the clarinet. However, she was later introduced to the trumpet by a classmate who was “playing it so beautifully” she had to stop and listen. Robinson said she wanted to play the trumpet herself. However, she assumed she would not be taken seriously because she was a woman.
While attending college, Cynthia Robinson actually won her first trumpet as part of a dare.
“I was at this beatnik’s house one night and he had a trumpet just sitting in the middle of the floor. I said, ‘Whoa! Whose is that?’ The beatnik said, ‘If you play it at my party Friday night you can have it.”
Although she attempted to play “Summertime” at the man’s party, Cynthia eventually gave up as she “kept missing and scratching the notes.” For her efforts, the “beatnik” gave her the trumpet anyway.
Robinson took the instrument home, cleaned it up, and taught herself how to play. Within months, she landed a gig with a local band.
At the age of 20, Cynthia Robinson joined Sylvester (Sly) Stone as a trumpeter and vocalist in his band Sly and the Stoners. One year later, Sly and his brother Freddie, of Freddie & the Stone Souls, combined their bands to form Sly and the Family Stone.
As described by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Sly and the Family Stone holds the distinction of being “rock’s first integrated, multi-gender band.”
“The group connected with the rising counterculture by means of songs that addressed issues of personal pride and liberation in the context of driving, insistent and sunny-tempered music that fused rock and soul, creating a template for Seventies funk.”
With hits like “Dance to the Music,” “Everyday People,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” and “Family Affair,” the band became a worldwide sensation.
— Okayplayer.com (@okayplayer) November 25, 2015
Cynthia Robinson remained in the band from 1967 until they went their separate ways in 1975. Following the dissolution of Sly and the Family Stone, she played with numerous national acts, including Graham Central Station, George Clinton, and Prince.
With the news of Cynthia’s cancer diagnosis, her caregiver Mark Crowe and Family Funds Manager Raw Syl started a fundraising campaign to help offset the trumpeter and singer’s mounting medical bills.
— Vulture (@vulture) November 25, 2015
In a November 19 Facebook post, a representative suggested Robinson had taken a turn for the worse.
“All, Your prayers are greatly need for this fine woman who has done nothing but bring joy and love into the hearts of others. God Bless Cynthia Robinson!”
On Tuesday, the same representative announced the acclaimed musician had died.
Cynthia Robinson is survived by two daughters, Sylvette Phunne Stone and Laura Marie. Her representatives have not discussed information about her funeral arrangements.
[Image via Shutterstock/Ezume]