effervescent vocalist, DJ and dancer (above, second from right) was among rock
‘n’ roll’s most groundbreaking femme icons. View the posthumously released
video for the Slits 2009 song “Lazy Slam,” below. Also in this update are
statements from Ari’s label and manager.
By Fred Mills
Shocking news was posted late yesterday at John Lydon’s
official website: Ari Up of the Slits has passed away (on Oct. 20) following “a
serious illness.” The punk pioneer and dub provocateur was 48.
A brief message at the
“John and Nora have
asked us to let everyone know that Nora’s daughter Arianna (aka Ari-Up) died
today (Wednesday, October 20th) after a serious illness. She will be sadly
missed. Everyone at JohnLydon.com and PiLofficial.Com would like to pass on
their heartfelt condolences to John , Nora and family. Rest in Peace.”
The Nora mentioned, of course, is Lydon’s wife Nora Forster;
Ari is survived by Forster, Lydon and three sons. Ari reportedly had been
suffering from cancer, although additional details remain sketchy at this point
as most news accounts last night and this morning have essentially keyed off
the Lydon site message. However, the Slits management indicated that the family
has “asked for privacy at this time, and no public service is planned.”
Narnack Records – Statement from Shahin
Ewalt: We had the privilege over the last couple of years getting to know Ari
both professionally and as a friend. Ari was a rare and beautiful person. She
had so much energy, and was full of life. There is no one like her and I’m
afraid there will never be another Ari Up. She was fearless, pushing the
boundaries of music in unprecedented ways. You can hear her direct influence in
punk, indie and reggae over the course of the past three decades.
She made life fun and was so passionate
about music. Ariane very much wanted her music to live on. She was smiling and
making things happen through the good and the bad. We will truly miss her.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to her family.
Jeff Jacquin/Manager Statement: In
my 20 years as a manager I have never seen or felt such inspiration and
unyielding passion for music and life as I had with my dear friend and client
Ari Up. She was truly one of a kind, and there will never be another like
her. She influenced generations of women and created some of the most memorable
music of our time, but Ari’s true magic was how she affected people on the
street, face to face every day. She ate life up and spit it out, she lived it
on her own terms and never gave an inch! The Slits will live on forever and
continue to change the way people feel about music and themselves and that’s
just the way Ari would want it! We will all miss you so much!
The Slits, of course, were one of the more groundbreaking
groups to emerge from the ground zero punk explosion in Britain in the
mid/late ‘70s. After forming in ’76, the dub-funk-punk-reggae (with a dash or
two of classic girl-group flourishes, natch) combo found itself on the 1977
White Riot tour with the Clash, Buzzcocks and Subway Sect, firmly establishing
themselves as a concert force to be reckoned with despite the occasional
critical dismissals. After 1979’s Dennis Bovell-produced Cut LP hit the bins – with its legendary nude/mud/loincloth front
cover – the band’s notoriety was sealed, although the Slits would only last
through a second album, Return of the
Giant Slits. They split up in early 1982.
Later, she formed the New Age Steppers, performed as a solo
artist and DJ, and, in 2006, reformed the Slits with bassist Tessa Pollitt. The
new lineup toured, released an EP, Revenge of the Killer Slits as well as a 2009 full-length, Trapped Animal. Speaking to BLURT’s Jennifer Kelly in 2009 about
her band and her legacy, Ari observed, “You know, when the Slits were out, we
were banned from radio and a lot of gigs just because of the name. Just for
being the Slits. But I don’t think we’re just like a punk band. I think we’re
also the first girl band. Because all other girls before that were just playing
Yours truly was fortunate enough to interview Ari several
years ago as well, for Harp magazine
around the time of the Cut reissue,
and she was at turns playful, defiant, proud and tender – an absolute delight
to talk with, willing to go wherever the conversation ventured and eager to
pick my brain for my thoughts on various subjects. One of my all-time favorite
interviews, period. I count myself additionally lucky at having gotten to see
the reunited Slits play at SXSW in Austin
once, too. We’ll have excerpts from both my interview and Kelly’s conversation
published tomorrow at BLURT.
Ari, we’ll all miss you, greatly. And our deepest
condolences to the family and friends.
Below, see the video from “Lazy Slam” (from Trapped Animal), which was directed in
2010 by Jess Holzworth. According to the band’s label, Narnack, it was Ari’s
wish that it be released posthumously.
[Photo Credit: Angel Cebellos]