Farewell to Ari Up, Lead Singer of The Slits

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Published October 21, 2010

It’s a sad day for punk fans: Arianna Forster, better known as Ari Up, the lead singer of The Slits, passed away yesterday at the age of 48. A post on her stepfather John Lydon (the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten)’s website, written on behalf of Lydon and Forster’s mother, explained that she had passed away after a “serious illness,” though the entry didn’t name which one. PHOTO, LEFT, BY WWWHATSUP.

Forster was the granddaughter of an extremely wealthy magazine publisher who controlled the respected newsweekly Der Spiegel, but who wasn’t kind to the women in his life: according to an Aquarian Weekly profile of Forster, he oppressed her belly-dancing grandmother and blackmailed her mother. Forster’s mother, Nora, was a music promoter and manager who worked with acts like Jimi Hendrix, Wishbone Ash, and Taste—a huge influence on Forster, who learned guitar from Joe Strummer and founded The Slits in 1976 when she was just 14. They were opening for The Clash, Buzzcocks, and Subway Sect by the next year.

Ari Up will be remembered as a feminist icon in addition to a musical one: though The Slits’ lineup wasn’t always an all-girl band, they were a powerfully female voice during one of the most male-dominated musical movements of the last fifty years. And Forster—who got into reggae and dancehall after the group broke up in 1981—was their fiercely independent face.

[MTV News, John Lydon, The Aquarian]