In Memoriam: Cynthia Robinson — Rest in Peace (And Jam If You Wanna)
Folks, I’ve never blown — now, now, this is a non-fiction blog post, not one of my Negrotica naughties — a trumpet or any other kind of horn. Well, unless a conch shell counts? I’ve blown a few deadlines, many chances, some fuses including ones in my brain, okay.
When I was a young girl stuck with a play-by-number organ, instead of gifted with a piano that must’ve dropped from my Christmas wish list — e-v-e-r-y year — while Santa Claus was either texting his head elf or sexting Mrs. C (or vice versa), my mind was blown upon watching “Soul Train” one Saturday morning: The band rocking out on Don Cornelius’ hip show was Sly and The Family Stone. (I was a kid; I knew nothing about lip syncing and instrument syncing back then.) However groovy and funky the frontman was, I was transfixed by Cynthia Robinson (pictured above within a photo of Sly and The Family Stone) showing the trumpet who’s boss. “Daddy, I didn’t think a girl could do that. Gee, wow!” Yeah, those were the days when lots of working-class families had one television (or only one color television), so the entire nuclear unit would be watching shows together. Those also were days when I used to exclaim in such geeky ways.
When the musical dynamics changed on “Stand,” I nearly lost my lil mind. Amid my father’s crisp fingersnaps sounding like the popping of fresh stringbeans and my choreography unbefitting of a Brownie, I never lost sight of my role model and heroine: Cynthia.
This past weekend, I had a good time viewing a rebroadcast of TVOne’s “Unsung” profile of reclusive musical genius Sly Stone during the dynamic cable network’s marathon of ninety-nine episodes. (Just a sampling of the unique, seven-year-old biographical series blows both A&E’s “Biography” and VH-1’s “Behind the Music” out of the broadcast journalism water.) As I was sitting riveted on my settee, and cussing every time the need for English subtitles arose during Sly’s raspy accounts of onstage performances and on-the-road antics, I was elated to see and listen to music legend Cynthia Robinson — one of the world’s first female trumpeters — providing her perspective of experiences as a key member of The Family Stone. After smiling at the still photo of her with her then-school-aged daughter, I received a pleasant surprise when Cynthia got real in a sassy, Cheryl Lynn way on the topic of romancing the head stone.
“That was my man!” she said about Sly. It was like witnessing Cynthia transforming into a chick nearly fifty years younger because her face lit up like that of any assertive young woman boasting about her main squeeze. There she was, my first female idol — after my mother, grandmothers and my septuagenarian Puerto Rican baby-sitter — rolling forward and backward on her hips and rejoicing with laughter as she waxed rapturously about a true love. Methinks I spied upon the pearly whites of a victorious mistress. To be fair, and clear, she was commenting within the context of Sly being married at the time and, thus, she was acknowledging not being his woman.
Hmmm … How many Black women of various ages today are rising above the funk of spinster-style fatalism, choosing to share rather than despair? It’s not for me to judge any sista’s decision — conscious or subconscious — to ignore her boo’s tan line around a particular digit or, for that matter, to relish droppin’ it like it’s hot on the finger that his wife had “put a ring on it.” Whoah-ho-ho, all I’m saying, here, is that Cynthia — in love as in music — was ahead of her time. She owned it. Therefore, by living in the authenticity of her being, she rendered the word “mistress” an anachronism.
Never ever hard on the eye, Cynthia Robinson was, musically speaking too, a beautiful badass to the end. My only regret is never having the chance to see her featured with Prince in any live concert. As the Bard might say: To think, perchance to dream.
She would’ve turned seventy years young this coming January 12th. Rest in peace, Cynthia.
Text only: © 2015 Chantale Rêve All Rights Reserved