She died way too young.
Born to privilege in Munich, Germany — her grandfather owned the influential German newspaper Der Spiegel – Up’s mother, Nora, mingled in the music biz as well. Nora Forster dated Chris Spedding, hung out with Jimi Hendrix and later married Slits contemporary, Johnny Rotten/Lydon former lead singer of the Sex Pistols. Lydon became her stepdad.
Nora’s home was a rock and roll haven and she often took in musicians who were down on their luck or traveling thru London and had no accommodations. The constant presence of punk music led to Ari Up experimenting in it herself, learning guitar skills from The Clash’s Joe Strummer.
Ari Up, with her wildly colored and braided hair and crazy stage outfits, was only fourteen when she formed The Slits with drummer Palmolive (Paloma Romero) in 1976. The rest of the band included Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt replacing founding members, Kate Korus and Suzy Gutsy. They can be seen briefly in The Clash movie, Rude Boy, with the band backstage. Their 1977 performances are featured in The Punk Rock Movie, a 1992 release of various London-based punk group club.
After The Slits split in 1981, Up moved with her husband and twin children to jungle regions of Indonesia and Belize, living among indigenous people in those areas. Later, they moved to Jamaica, eventually settling in Kingston.
She continued to make music, first with the New Age Steppers, then solo as Baby Ari, Madussa, and Ari Up.
Her first full length solo album entitled Dread More Dan Dead was released in 2005.
In 2006 Ari Up reformed The Slits with original bass player Tessa Pollitt and Paul Cook’s daughter on backing vocals. They released an EP Return of the Giant Slits and have since toured in Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan. She occasionally played solo concerts in New York, and toured the UK with her backing band ‘The True Warriors’
She also recorded with the Jammyland All Stars, and the German techno-dancehall outfit, Terranova.
Ari Up appeared on the Lee “Scratch” Perry’s 2008 album, Repentance, and performed a duet on a cover version of The Yardbirds’ song “Mister You’re a Better Man Than I” on Mark Stewart’s 2008 album, Edit. In July 2009, she performed with Perry and Austrian dub band Dubblestandart in Brooklyn, New York just prior to the Central Park SummerStage festival.
In January 2009, the Los Angeles based Narnack Records announced they had signed the Slits to a recording contract, so things were looking up. A biography – Typical Girls? The Story Of The Slits by Zoe Street Howe was published in the UK by Omnibus Press ilater that year.
Then Up got sick.
Yesterday John Lydon’s homepage announced, on behalf of John and Ari’s mother Nora Forster, Ari Up’s death that morning from a “serious illness”.
The Slit’s final work, the video for the song “Lazy Slam” from Trapped Animal, was released posthumously according to Ari Up’s wishes.