Groundbreaking trumpeter and singer Cynthia Robinson, a co-founder of the pivotal funk band Sly & the Family Stone, died Nov. 23 at age 71.
Robinson’s death was confirmed by bandmate and friend Jerry Martini, another co-founder of the Family Stone, NPR reported.
In October, Robinson disclosed that she was suffering from cancer in an online campaign launched to help defray her medical bills.
Robinson was an integral member of Sly & the Family Stone, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. It’s her voice that urges fans to “Dance to the Music,” and her horn that blazed through the band’s sets, from hits such as “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” to lesser-known gems such as “Underdog.”
In an interview earlier this year with The Washington Informer, former Family Stone bassist and Graham Central Station frontman Larry Graham reminisced about the legendary group.
“We were just that, a family,” Graham said. “Sly always had a big heart and Cynthia [was] another great part of it all.”
In a 2013 profile aired on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Robinson said that Sly Stone wanted the band to be a galvanizing social force.
“He made things very simple: to stand for what you believe in,” she said. “He knew how to touch upon subjects that meant something to masses of people.”
Born in 1946, Robinson joined Stone’s band in 1966, in an era when being a female trumpet player — an African-American one, at that — in a major band was an achievement in itself.
In an undated interview with WBGH, Robinson said that while she was growing up, other kids gave her a hard time about playing her instrument: “It left me with the impression that, you know, no guy in the world would let a girl play the trumpet in his group.”
After Sly Stone & The Family Stone dispersed in the late 1970s, Robinson and several bandmates continued to play together as The Family Stone. She also played with such artists as Prince and George Clinton’s Funkadelic.
Robinson had two daughters, Laura Marie and Sylvette Phunne Stone, the latter with Sly Stone. Earlier this year, Robinson and Sylvette released the single “Do Yo Dance” with the Family Stone.