Sly and the Family Stone helped pioneer one of dominant styles of the 1970s, funk music. Their variant fused the psychedelic rock of the late 1960s with classic soul; in that sense, it differed considerably from the bass-heavy grooves of mainstream funk. As popular on the pop charts as with urban black youth, the group greatly influenced the careers of later crossover giants such as George Clinton, mastermind of the Parliament/ Funkadelic collective, Rick James, and Prince.
The creative core of Sly and the Family Stone, Texas-native Sylvester Stewart, developed an impressive music business resume in Sam Francisco during the mid-1960s, excelling as a disc jockey (KSOL, KDIA), songwriter, and record producer for the likes of Beau Brummels, Bobby Freeman, and the Mojo Men with Autumn Records. His first attempt at heading a group, the Stoners, failed in 1966; however, Sly and the Family Stone—including his brother, guitarist Freddie Stone, sister Rosie Stone, who played sang and played keyboards and harmonica, and a cousin, bassist Larry Graham, who would form Graham Central Station in the early 1970s—attracted sufficient local attention in 1967 to garner a contract with Epic Records.
The group’s debut LP, A Whole New Thing (Epic 30333; 1967) failed to attract much attention. However, the follow-up album, Dance to the Music (Epic 26371; 1968; #142), and the exuberant title song (Epic 10256; 1968; #8) elevated them to the forefront of the rock scene. The group maintained its momentum with a steady stream of hit singles—most notably, "Everyday People" (Epic 10407; 1968; #1), "Hot Fun in the Summertime" (Epic 10497; 1969; #2), "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" (Epic 10555; 1970; #1), and "Family Affair" (Epic 10805; 1971; #1)—and albums: Life (Epic 26397; 1968; #195), Stand! (Epic 26456; 1969; #13), Greatest Hits (Epic 30325; 1970; #2), There’s A Riot Goin’ On (Epic 30986; 1971; #1), and Fresh (Epic 32134; 1973; #7). The uplifting, anthem-like quality of Sly and the Family Stone’s early work gave way to a decidedly more negative, militant tone in There’s A Riot Goin’ On; however, the uniformly high quality of Sly’s musical ideas and production work made it the most successful—artistically and commercially—of his albums.
Sly’s drug problems in the 1970s led to an increasing inability to meet concert commitments and lackluster studio work. He ceased to perform or record for several prior to attempting a comeback with the October 1979 release of Back on the Right Track (Warner Bros. 3303) Unfortunately, the album lacked strong material and Stone spent much of the 1980s fighting drug convictions. Sly and the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Rumors have periodically surfaced since then that the group would soon be releasing new material. In the meantime, their classic recordings have appeared in a host of compilation releases, including The Collection (Castle Communications 307; 1991) and Takin’ You Higher – The Best of Sly & the Family Stone (Sony 471758; 1992; reissued on Epic 477506; 1994).
|Back to Soul Music||Back to Table of Contents|