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Sly & The Family Stone

Sly & the Family Stone harnessed all of the disparate musical and social trends of the late '60s, creating a wild, brilliant fusion of soul, rock, R&B, psychedelia, and funk that broke boundaries down without a second thought. Led by Sly Stone, the Family Stone was comprised of men and women, and blacks and whites, making the band the first fully integrated group in rock's history. That integration shone through the music, as well as the group's message. Before Stone, very few soul and R&B groups delved into political and social commentary; after him, it became a tradition in soul, funk, and hip-hop. And, along with James Brown, Stone brought hard funk into the mainstream. The Family Stone's arrangements were ingenious, filled with unexpected group vocals, syncopated rhythms, punchy horns, and pop melodies. Their music was joyous, but as the '60s ended, so did the good times. Stone became disillusioned with the ideals he had been preaching in his music, becoming addicted to a variety of drugs in the process. His music gradually grew slower and darker, culminating in 1971's There's a Riot Going On, which set the pace for '70s funk with its elastic bass, slurred vocals, and militant Black Power stance. Stone was able to turn out one more modern funk classic, 1973's Fresh, before slowly succumbing to his addictions, which gradually sapped him of his once prodigious talents. Nevertheless, his music continued to provide the basic template for urban soul, funk, and even hip-hop well into the '90s.

Sly Stone (born Sylvester Stewart, March 15, 1944) and his family moved from his home state of Texas to San Francisco in the '50s. He had already begun to express an interest in music, and when he was 16, he had a regional hit with "Long Time Away." Stone studied music composition, theory, and trumpet at Vallejo Junior College in the early '60s; simultaneously, he began playing in several groups on the Bay Area scene, often with his brother Fred. Soon, he had become a disc jockey at the R&B station KSOL, later switching to KDIA. The radio appearances led to a job producing records for Autumn Records. While at Autumn, he worked with a number of San Franciscan garage and psychedelic bands, including the Beau Brummels, the Great Society, Bobby Freeman, and the Mojo Men.

During 1966, Stone formed the Stoners, which featured trumpeter Cynthia Robinson. Though the Stoners didn't last long, he brought Robinson along as one of the core members of his next group, Sly & the Family Stone. Formed in early 1967, the Family Stone also featured Fred Stewart (guitar, vocals), Larry Graham, Jr. (bass, vocals), Greg Errico (drums), Jerry Martini (saxophone), and Rosie Stone (piano), who all were of different racial backgrounds. The group's eclectic music and multiracial composition made them distinctive from the numerous flower-power bands in San Francisco, and their first single, "I Ain't Got Nobody," became a regional hit for the local label Loadstone. The band signed with Epic Records shortly afterward, releasing their debut album, A Whole New Thing, by the end of the year. The record stiffed, but the follow-up, Dance to the Music, generated a Top Ten pop and R&B hit with its title track early in 1968. Life followed later in 1968, but the record failed to capitalize on its predecessor's success. "Everyday People," released late in 1968, turned their fortunes back around, rocketing to the top of the pop and R&B charts and setting the stage for the breakthrough success of 1969's Stand!

Featuring "Everyday People," "Sing a Simple Song," "Stand," and "I Want to Take You Higher," Stand! became the Family Stone's first genuine hit album, climbing to number 13 and spending over 100 weeks on the charts. Stand! also marked the emergence of the political bent in Stone's songwriting ("Don't Call Me N**ger, Whitey"), as well as the development of hard-edged, improvisational funk like "Sex Machine." The Family Stone quickly became known as one of the best live bands of the late '60s, and their performance at Woodstock was widely hailed as one of the festival's best. The non-LP singles "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" b/w "Everybody Is a Star" became hits, reaching number two and number one respectively in late 1969/early 1970. Both singles were included on Greatest Hits, which became a number two record upon its fall 1970 release. While the group was at the height of its popularity, Sly was beginning to unravel behind the scenes. Developing a debilitating addiction to narcotics, Stone soon became notorious for arriving late for concerts, frequently missing the shows all together.

Stone's growing personal problems, as well as his dismay with the slow death of the civil rights movement and other political causes, surfaced on There's a Riot Goin' On. Though the album shot to number one upon its fall 1971 release, the record -- including "Family Affair," Stone's last number one single -- was dark, hazy, and paranoid, and his audience began to shrink slightly. During 1972, several key members of the Family Stone, including Graham and Errico, left the band; they were replaced by Rusty Allen and Andy Newmark, respectively. The relatively lighter Fresh appeared in the summer of 1973, and it went into the Top Ten on the strength of the Top Ten R&B hit "If You Want Me to Stay." Released the following year, Small Talk was a moderate hit, reaching number 15 on the charts and going gold, but it failed to generate a big hit single. High on You, released in late 1975 and credited only to Sly Stone, confirmed that his power and popularity had faded. "I Get High on You" reached the R&B Top Ten, but the album made no lasting impact.

Disco had overtaken funk in terms of popularity, and even if Sly wanted to compete with disco, he wasn't in shape to make music. He had become addicted to cocaine, his health was frequently poor, and he was often in trouble with the law. His recordings had slowed to a trickle, and Epic decided to close out his contract in 1979 with Ten Years Too Soon, a compilation of previously released material that had the original funky rhythm tracks replaced with disco beats. Stone signed with Warner Brothers that same year, crafting the comeback effort Back on the Right Track with several original members of the Family Stone, but the record was critically panned and a commercial failure. In light of the album's lack of success, Stone retreated even further, eventually joining forces with George Clinton on Funkadelic's 1981 album The Electric Spanking of War Babies. Following the album's release, Stone toured with Clinton's P-Funk All-Stars, which led him to embark on his own tour, as well as a stint with Bobby Womack. The culmination of this burst of activity was 1983's Ain't but the One Way, an album that was ignored. Later that year, Stone was arrested for cocaine possession; the following year, he entered rehab.

Stone appeared on Jesse Johnson's 1986 R&B hit "Crazay." The following year, he dueted with Martha Davis on "Love & Affection" for the Soul Man soundtrack; he also he recorded "Eek-a-Bo-Static," a single that didn't chart. Stone was arrested and imprisoned for cocaine possession by the end of 1987, and he was never able to recover from the final arrest. Stone continued to battle his addiction, with varying degrees of success. By his 1993 induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he had disappeared from public view. Avenue Records gave Stone a recording contract in 1995, but nothing would be recorded. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Higher!

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
x

Track List: The Collection (Box Set)

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
Disc 5
Disc 6
Disc 7

Comments

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I would love to see a couple rap artist sample this song and do a hip-hop remix of this funky track.
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Sly &The Family Stone ushered in a new approach and style to soul music,Curtis Mayfield,Ste v i e Wonder,Marvi n Gaye,Shuggie Otis,Rick James,right on up to Prince etc
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Was privileged to see Sly and the Family Stone in 69, during my college years, which was more memorable than graduation day. He served us that day...
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This is FUNK SOUL MUSIC 4 real. Thanks sly.
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They encouraged me to STAND
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dkonstantyjr
Life, Heard you missed me? It appears there are more comps than original albums in the selected discography, completely uncalled for.
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dkonstantyjr
Why don't they have A Whole New Thing? Underrated - no, completely unlisted.
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Dance to the music all night long........
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Seen them at a free concert. In the early 70's.
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beautyofnatu r e . l g
Thank You for Lettin' Me Be Myself (to all who do)
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tracypatrick 8
Still remember good music
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Sly is an icon
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Thank you for bringing people of all colors together!
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I want to take u higher
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sat at the roundtable with SLY IN THE c
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This mans music brings back so many really great memories & feelings. Thank you Sly for teaching a young S.F. mission boy to be himself & just enjoy life! Peace to all!
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dragonlady60 8 8
Sly....."!!" ! " ! !!""!
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annvaughn79
Awesome therapy
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annvaughn79
Love this!
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power_jam12
I MET SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE COMING INTO LOVE FIELD AIRPORT IN DALLAS TEXAS WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL MY FONDEST MEMORY
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power_jam12
I'm so THANKFUL THAT SLY HAS RECIEVED SOME JUSTICE DUE!!! GOD IS GREAT AND I'M THANKFUL
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Slythefamily s t 9 n e
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The baddest funk band ever! They took you to church at every concert! I saw them once and once was enough! They were the bomb!!
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Love you allways
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dam songs just bring me back loving it
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immykee
Great funk!
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david.ellis2 3 1
I want to hear sex machine
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If this doesn't get you moving, I don't know what will.
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Pioneers of fusion and funk. Sly is always family!
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Funk me runnin!
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Funk Me!
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Again. . Thank you
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Que Sara Sara. Best remake (cover) in the history of music!!! Takes it to church.
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love tis song since dead presidents
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Prince is a modern day sly and family stone
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19sandy62
I'm feeling this........ . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Kick it boys!!!!!!!
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QUE VIVA LOS 60s!!!!! :-D
(Well, the music, @ least )
THANK U 2, MR. STONE & FAMILY!!!!!! ! ! :-) :-) :-) :-)
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to Sly where ever you are ,,,thank you for making music sexy, while keeping us socially educated and dancing in the streets,,,Le g e n d s don't die they just travel through space and time . Love the music forever !!!!!!!
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I got the message- Sly & The Family Stone are legends!
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Boom baby
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That bass is working in bringing in that Funk
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OAKLAND FUNK TA DA 12 POWER TIMES PIE YA DIG
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One of the more socially conscious bands of the time. To see their live show was incredible! You would be out of your seat and grooving to the music!
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Running away to get away I love that song by Sly.
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Sly & The Family Stone!! Different strokes for different folks!!
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This is the ONE
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This is for the Groovy People
9.7k*978*4m1 4 y ~
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Sing it Ray....rip.. . u r missedxoxo
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Yes #DRUG wiped out so many Great Stars... Ya Dig!!!
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