Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bottoms up for Larry Graham

By Al Tays

Al Tays is the ace
of bass -- not to mention
rhythm and lead --
Sundays at the Sanctuary.
Here's wishing a happy 65th birthday to Larry Graham, former bass player for Sly and the Family Stone and founder of Graham Central Station. Graham is the baritone-voiced singer of the "Dance to the Music" lyric "I'm gonna add some bottom/so that the dancers just won't hide" followed by his signature slap-bass technique. Graham is considered a pioneer of slap bass, which is familiar even to non-music fans from the "Seinfeld" audio.

I've loved "Dance to the Music," with its one-at-a-time introduction of the band's instruments, since it came out in 1968 on Epic Records. Interestingly, the band didn't care for it. They thought it was a sellout, and they weren't entirely wrong. The song came about because producer Clive Davis wanted something more commercially acceptable than the band's previous work.

He got it. "Dance to the Music" went to No. 8 on the Billboard Pop Singles Top 10.

Of course, you can't judge a song strictly by what it does on the charts. Does anyone need reminding that "Achy Breaky Heart" got to No. 4? Anyone? Bueller?

But as the lyrics say, "Dance to the Music" makes it "easy to move your feet." So get up and dig it, y'all, while "all the squares go home."

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