Sly and the Family Stone were everything that the "love generation" promised.
“It's not the teaching, it's the learning.” – Sly Stone
San Francisco Chronicle music journalist Joel Selvin once wrote that "There are two types of black music: black music before Sly Stone, and black music after Sly Stone". Though that quote may be endlessly debatable, it underscores the significance of the first artist we are spotlighting for Black History Month 2018: Sly and the Family Stone.
Though not the first multi-ethnic/multi-gender group in Rock history, they were the first signed to a major label. In just three short years, the group, led by Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone) went from being what some early critics referred to as a gimmick to the hottest music act in the world. The band not only included not only black and white members, but male and female members; it is important to remember that they were, in essence, a family act, with his sister Rose and brother Freddie in the band, as well as Cynthia Robinson, who was the mother of one of Sly's children.
Sly and the Family Stone, 1969. Photo by Stephen Paley, Columbia Records A&R staff member. Courtesy of Sony/BMG. (l-r) Gregg Errico, Rose Stone, Sly Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Freddie Stone Jerry Martini and Larry Graham.
Sly Stone had released singles as a solo act and with his brother Freddie to little success outside of the San Francisco bay area, where the band was based. Up until the formation of the group, Sly was better known as a record producer and local radio DJ. They forged a sound that merged Soul, classic R&B, Rock and Psychedelic music so original they birthed a whole new sub-genre of music, Psychedelic Soul. Their high energy performances and songs about universal love struck a chord with the black and white record buying public during a time of intense racial and political strife in the United States.
In short, Sly and the Family Stone were everything that the "love generation" promised: unity against adversity, that money didn't matter, and love would conquer hate. Things would quickly change after 1969 for the group, but during the period we cover here, they were a singular voice and the hope that the young people of America truly needed. This is nowhere more evidenced by career-defining performance at Woodstock in August 1969, where they came on at 3:30 a.m. and pretty much left everyone screaming for more.
Our tracks this week: Title, Year, Source
1. Are You Ready?, 1968, Dance to the Music
2. Everyday People, 1968, Stand!
3. Bad Risk (mono single master), 1967, A Whole New Thing
4. Hot Fun In The Summertime, 1969, single A-side
5. Life, 1968, Life
6. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again), 1969, double A-side single with "Everybody is a Star"
7. Dynamite!, 1968, Life
8. Somebody's Watching You, 1969, Stand!
9. I Can't Turn You Loose (full length version), recorded 1967/released 1972, "I Ain't Got Nobody" single B-side
10. Everybody Is A Star, 1969, double A-side single with "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)"
11. Pressure, 1968, Life
12. Silent Communications, recorded 1967/released 2013, Higher! box set
13. Stand!, 1969, Stand!
14. Medley: Dance To The Music/Music Lover/I Want To Take You Higher, recorded 1969/released 1970, Woodstock soundtrack
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX