Fans of the legendary Sly and the Family Stone band are reeling from news that original member and trumpeter Cynthia Robinson has died. Robinson had been battling cancer and kept fans aware of her journey combating the disease via social media.
Robinson was born on January 12, 1946. According to Robinson’s own account to Family Stone biographer Joel Selvin, she discovered a love of music as a teenager while listening to her mother’s records. Robinson said that she dreamed of backing some of her favorite music acts playing the trumpet.
The Sacramento, California native got her feet wet playing in backing bands for B.B. King, Lowell Fulsom and other related acts. As one of the first and only Black women playing the trumpet, Robinson naturally stood out and caught the attention of Sly Stone in 1966.
Initially she joined Stone’s Sly and the Stoners band but remained with the bandleader as the Family Stone band began to emerge. The Family Stone released their debut, A Whole New Thing, in 1967 but it wasn’t until 1969’s Stand! that the band started to ignite. This year, the album was considered for selection by the Library of Congress to be included in the National Recording Registry.
1971’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On was another of Sly and The Family Stone’s top releases, although it wasn’t a critical success early on. But over time, it has become the band’s most influential recording, giving them the distinction as some of the top innovators in he funk and soul world.
Although Robinson played the background as a horn player, she was far from insignificant. Her talents as a trumpeter led to her working with fellow Sly and the Family Stone member Larry Graham and his Graham Central Station band after the Family Stone disbanded in 1975.
Sly And The Family Stone reunited in 2003 without Sly and Graham, but with the rest of the original members and Robinson resuming her role on vocals and the trumpet. The newest incarnation of the band featured she and Stone’s daughter Sylvyette, and the pair sang together on the Family Stone’s 2015 single, “Do Yo Dance.”
As fans who follow Robinson’s Facebook page were aware of, she had been battling cancer for some time. She finally succumbed to the illness on Monday, with adoring messages from fans and supporters continuing to mount.