Sunday, November 14, 2010

The fraternal family of funk

By Wayne Shelor

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We share, this glorious Sunday morning (well it's glorious  here in Florida), two minutes of fabulous funk and fraternity that defined a generation, even though the gentle vibe and fearless philosophy died right along with the decade that gave a generation so much hope.

Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 No. 1 hit "Everyday People" was one of the most significant evolutionary left turns in popular music history; there was nothing like it before Sly, and most black, soul and urban music written since was influenced by the Family Stone.

Reared in a God-fearin’ church-goin’ music-playin’ family -- and a celebrated musical prodigy as a child -- Sly assembled his Family Stone band by including a close friend, three of his four siblings and a couple of white musicians; the validity of the Family Stone’s songs about love and brotherhood was never doubted.

Released in November 1968, "Everyday People" was, by early 1969, the top-rated song on both Billboard’s Pop and Soul charts, and the lyric “Different strokes for different folks” became more than a passing mantra, it became a cultural touchstone. The Family Stone’s horns, harmonies and hope dazzled a nation that danced to the music, and they took millions of celebrants higher and higher with their novel music.

Rock probably never knew a more optomistic man than Sylvester Stewart (Sly’s given name), who – once he took the Syd Barrett/Brian Wilson/Roky Erickson path to burnout – slipped into the dark void of drug abuse and mental instability. Sly’s shooting star burned out so quickly, many people forget that Sly and the Family Stone tore up the Woodstock festival with their incandescent pre-dawn performance in August 1969.

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