Cynthia Robinson, whose brassy, forthright trumpet lit up Sly and the Family Stone songs such as “Dance to the Music,” “Life” and “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” died Monday, the band’s publicist confirmed. She was 71.
The cause of death was cancer, according to a post on her Facebook page.
“Friends, Family and Fans throughout the world, Cynthia Robinson, Trumpeter and Co-Founder of Sly and The Family Stone has passed,” the post read. “Our condolences go out to the Robinson Family and her bandmates and all family & friends.”
Robinson cut a distinctive figure in rock ‘n’ roll, even among the distinctive, multiethnic clan that made up Sly and the Family Stone. She was a female trumpeter, a position that set her apart, especially in the late ’60s and early ’70s when Sly and the Family Stone was one of the dominant groups in pop music.
And her voice was unmistakable. That’s her you hear saying, “Get up and dance to the music” in the opening of “Dance to the Music.”
Cynthia Robinson stood out in a band in which every member stood out. She was a funky high priestess wielding a trumpet like a thaumaturgic ramsinga. And she wore a crown, a black afro, that was epic in its sculpted glory. Her presence was majestic. She was one of the first black women trumpet players in a rock band and set the tone for others to follow. But beyond the music, Robinson was commanding figure, not content to stay in the shadows. She was the one that implored us to “get up and dance to the music” and showed us how it was done. Robinson died of cancer this past Monday.
When learning of Robinson’s death, Roots drummer Questlove wrote…
… she wasn’t just a screaming cheerleading foil to Sly & Freddie’s gospel vocals. She was a KICK ASS trumpet player. A crucial intricate part of Sly Stone’s utopian vision of MLK’s America. 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.