Ari Up, singer for The Slits, R.I.P. (17 January 1962 – 20 October 2010)

(Here is a short article I wrote for the RE/Search Publications newsletter:)

Ariane Daniele Forster, better known as Ari Up, died month. It was reported that the cause of death was a “serious illness” but there were no other details available. I was kind of shocked to find out. Less that a year ago she played at The Bottom of The Hill in San Francisco with The Slits and she had looked great, with waist-length dreadlocks that she kept in motion as she jumped around the stage. Ari promised the audience that she’d be back to town soon to promote a new Slits album, which made this unexpected news even sadder.

The Slits were one of the original London punk bands and played many of the same venues as the Clash and The Sex Pistols. (Johnny Rotten eventually ended up marrying Ari’s mother!) But they were the last band from that scene to be signed to a recording contract, and their first album, “Cut”, wasn’t released until 1979. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” a non-LP single issued at the same time, was popular in the clubs for a while, they released one more album and quietly faded away.

Then, in 2005 Ari and original bassist Tessa Pollitt reformed The Slits. In the following years they played in San Francisco three times. I was lucky enough to see all three shows. Actually I was lucky to even hear about them – like many of the things that the Slits did during their original incarnation these shows were not very well publicized or understood. They played in three different clubs, each one smaller than the previous, and the audiences also kept decreasing in size. At their last SF gig I think most of the people watching their set were from the local opening acts.

But this didn’t stop Ari, Tessa, and their newly recruited band mates from putting on a memorable performance. Much has been written since they recorded “Cut” about how important The Slits were as a trailblazing female-fronted punk band, and that is very true. But I don’t think they’ve gotten enough credit for just how good their songs were. Their lyrics and melodies from the 70s, which had been written while the Slits were all teenagers, still sound fresh and original. And let it remembered that, in her mid-40s, Ari could still sing them with love, and with a big smile on her face.



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