January 1984: The Pointer Sisters Release "Automatic"

The Pointer Sisters in 1983
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Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images

When The Pointer Sisters released "Automatic" as the second single off their Break Out album on Jan. 13, 1984, it helped launch the trio into a new stratosphere - and provided a belated spotlight for the eldest Pointer's deepest voice.

Ruth Pointer had been valiantly holding down low harmonies alongside her sisters Anita and Bonnie for over a decade, and the sisters had enjoyed Top 10 hits over the late '70s and early '80s in the Bruce Springsteen-penned "Fire," "He's So Shy" and "Slow Hand."

But "Automatic" represented a turning point. The last track to be added to Break Out mixed cutting edge electronic melodies with dazzling mid-tempo dance rhythms and gave Ruth a chance to show off her alto pipes. "We all sat up straight when we first heard ['Automatic'] and told Richard [Perry, the group's producer] we wanted to include it on the album," Ruth wrote in her memoir. "'Okay,' he said. 'But who would sing the low part?' 'Are you kidding me?' I said, 'I'll do the low part!'"

Audiences loved "Automatic," taking it to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the U.K. charts (their highest-reaching single there). More Top 10 hits from Break Out accumulated throughout the year, including "Jump (for My Love)," a remixed version of "I'm So Excited" (taken from the group's 1982 album So Excited and added on re-pressings of the new LP) and "Neutron Dance" - another Ruth-led tune that took off as one of the hits from the Eddie Murphy blockbuster Beverly Hills Cop.

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