News from the Trenches - HASH’S FAVES - Sly & The Family Stone
This week’s pick is the song Everyday People, written by Sly Stone (Sylvester Stewart) from the 1969 album Stand! by Sly & The Family Stone. The band at that time was Sly on keyboards and vocals, Freddie Stone on guitar and vocals, Larry Graham on bass and vocals, ”Sister Rosie” Rose Sone on keyboards and vocals, Cynthia Robinson on trumpet and vocals, Jerry Martini on saxophone and vocals, Greg Errico on drums and vocals, and Vet Stone, Mary McCreary and Elva Mouton, collectively known as Little Sister on vocals.
Boy, do we need this song now! I hadn’t listened to this song for a while, and while listening to it today I started to tear up a little. Sly wrote some really subversively political lyrics that made their way onto the radio by dint of his enormous talent as a composer, bandleader and producer. Sly started out in the business as a radio d.j., became a producer (he produced hit records for the Bay-area band The Beau Brummels) and formed his groundbreaking band in 1966. It was, of course, the era of the hippie, and one must be frank in saying that Sly had a canny eye towards the marketplace when forming the band (he was a master of marketing); his idea was to have an integrated band, with male and female musicians, black, white and brown. Of course the idea wouldn’t have amounted to a hill of beans without the combined talents of the people he recruited, but they were all bad MFer's; for evidence, see this video, where they play, live, a medley of their greatest hits:
What I mean is that the producer of whichever television show this was from probably would have been happy if they had just lip-synched to a track, but Sly wasn’t having none a’ that.
Unfortunately, Sly descended into a drug-addled haze for many years (although that same addiction would result in at least one masterpiece, Thank You For Talkin’ To Me, Africa, a junked-out version of Thank You Falettin’ Me Be Mice Elf Agin), lost the band and all of his publishing, and wound up living in a trailer. He has made sporadic appearances since 2007, many of them marked by audience walk-outs due to Sly’s tardiness (always a trademark) or severely truncated sets. I have a vague memory (remember what year this was) of attending what was supposed to be an appearance of the band in Grant Park in 1970 that turned into a full-scale riot when it was thought that the band was not going to show (in fairness, it has never been proven that they didn’t intend to play). I don’t know what he’s doing now, but he helped to change the face of American culture and music.
You can listen to it here:
Steve Hashimoto is a freelance musician and graphic artist who writes a long running weekly newsletter entitled News from the Trenches where he talks about his experiences in music from performing to influences and everything in between.
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