Last night I posted on Facebook:
“My dear Ari. Taught me to sing, dance, march to my own drummer-and be nice to the fans. My heart is forever broken.”
I did this because sweet Ari Up from the legendary band, The Slits died yesterday of a “serious illness” according to John Lydon (Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols) who is currently married to Ari’s mom.
I intended to continue my regular blog tonight but when I heard this news I knew my night had taken a different turn. Maria McKee (another Pioneer Girl, to say the least) and I chatted on FB, both admittedly crying and wondering a world without the influence of that OTHER all-girl band, The Slits. (I should say almost all-girl band for the purists)
I moved to London at 16 just to be around these girls. When I met them at a show at Brixton, they laughed at me saying that they sucked and I had made a huge mistake. I told them they were stupid and that they were my Beatles. They laughed even more. A year or so later Ari approached me at the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood and asked, “Weren’t you just in London?” And she made a fan for life.
Forever refusing compliments, Ari brought a fresh young face to what would end up being a male-dominated world of punk rock. She also had a three octave range, gorgeous dread locks and a killer smile backed by intelligence, humor and a tribal sense of community. The Slits not only introduced a whole new generation to reggae music (years before Blondie recorded “The Tide Is High”) but they brought the Do It Yourself spirit that was to define the entire Punk / New Wave movement for decades to come.
Keep in mind: no Slits, no Go Gos. Sure The Runaways happened first so in all fairness let’s say it was a group effort to blast open the door for women in rock forever more but The Slits never relied on sex appeal (Runaways) or pin-up, teenage wet dream cuteness (Go Gos). They were their own statement, their own fashion and their own force to be reckoned with.
I don’t expect people in my world to run out and buy Slits records (or Ari’s superior solo effort). I don’t expect a new rise in the numbers of fans-at least until a movie is made. I only want to remind those around me that to an artist, an influence is sacred- a gift from God put in our path to teach us and guide us. Ari Up was one of my greatest influences. I still listen to her and The Slits like it was yesterday when I would get up every morning in London and play their debut album (which I had recorded with a hand-held microphone onto a cassette player) and dream that one day I’d be on stage as well.
Keep your Elvis, keep your Beatles… I have Ari Up and The Slits.
PLEASE pray for her family, friends, fans and countless artists her life had touched. Today marks a dark day in the music revolution. Thank God Ari had her day in the sun.