I wish I had been quicker with this one. The lovely and talented Cynthia Robinson passed away last week from the effects of cancer. She was an accomplished musician, singer, and bringer of joy.
Cynthia Robinson was one of, if not, the first women trumpet players in an American pop band. She worked hard to be noticed. She played in seedy bars with bands for only $10 a night. She took session work wherever she could find it. It paid off big time. She barely knew Sly Stone when her mother (yes, moms may be nosy but they’re smart) helped repair his guitar in exchange for him giving a jam session in their living room. Soon she was a member of the The Stoners and eventually Sly & the Family Stone.
Why is she a hot nerd crush? I consider band geeks to fall under my definition of hot nerd. She was a school band geek. She started on the flute in the elementary school band. When she arrived at high school there were no school flutes and she didn’t own one so they moved her to the clarinet. She probably would have stayed in the woodwind family if she hadn’t overheard a young trumpeter practicing one day. She claims it was the best thing she ever heard and asked to play his trumpet. He obliged. She was hooked.
Cynthia never thought much on being a black woman in a high profile band. It was her vocation and she was going to succeed, but the press always pushed her on the subject. Being a part of an integrated band allowed her to let the music speak for her. She was proud to serve as a role model. After the breakup of Sly and the Family Stone she continued to play, notably with Graham Central Station. I could be very wrong, but I believe she was the first black female trumpet player inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
She continued to perform with The Family Stone through her illness.