Ari Up, the frontwoman and founder of the ’70s and ’80s all-girl punk group The Slits, has died at 48 after a bout with an undisclosed illness.
The news was spread by John Lydon of the Sex Pistols, who was married to Up’s mother Nora Forster and was the singer’s stepfather. Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, had the news posted to his website.
“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.”
According to The Slits’ MySpace, “[Up’s] immediate family has asked for privacy at this time and no public service is planned.” She is survived by three sons.
Ari Up, born Arianna Forster, started The Slits in Britain with friend and drummer Palmolive (Paloma Romero) when she was only 14 years old, in 1976. The band was a challenging all-female voice in a burgeoning, predominantly male punk rock scene during that period and opened for the Clash on their first tour outing. Integrating reggae into their bouncing rock noise, their live shows were boisterous and notoriously wild, even after Up reunited with bassist Tessa Pollitt and added new members in 2006. Thus, they laid down the trackwork for other women in punk and the riot grrrl movement in the years to come.
The Slits released two albums in its early years: 1979’s “Cut” featured the band topless and caked with mud on its cover while 1981’s “Return of the Giant Slits” was darker, quirkier and more experimental. In 2006, the modified band released “Revenge of the Killer Slits” and in 2009 unleashed their last full-length “Trapped Animal.”
Ari Up requested that The Slits’ music video for “Lazy Slam” be released posthumously, which we’ve posted below. The song was culled from that latter album.
In a statement from Jeff Jacquin, her manager: “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.”
For me, personally, I remember a friend putting the Slits’ “Typical Girls” on a mix in high school. It was decidedly atypical; I was and have been enthralled with them since. Rest in peace, Ari.