Biography - The official website of Sly Stone (2023)


"All squares, go home!"

More than four decades after topping the pop and R&B charts in the winter of 1968 with "Dance To the Music", a groundbreaking jam that has the honor of being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, being voted “ 500 Songs That Shaped Rock" and being named "500 Greatest Songs Of All Time" by Rolling Stone magazine - the music of Sly and the Family Stone is more important than ever.

The band's back catalog (each composed by Sylvester Stewart aka Sly Stone) includes their three RIAA Gold Billboard #1 Pop/#1 R&B hits, "Everyday People", "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again)" and "Family Affair" and its Top 40 hits, which began with "Dance To the Music" and progressed to "Stand!", "Hot Fun In the Summertime", "Runnin' Away" and "If You Want Me To" Stay ", "Time For Livin'" and more.

These songs not only inspired an era of youthful rebellion and independence, but also had a powerful impact on the course of modern music in general. A dazzling fusion of psychedelic rock, soul, gospel, jazz and Latin flavors, Sly's music brought the next step - funk - to a diverse population of trendy artists. From Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to the Motown and P-Funk halls of George Clinton, from Michael Jackson and Curtis Mayfield to Bob Marley, the Isley Brothers, Prince, Public Enemy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arrested Development, Black Eyed Peas, the Roots, OutKast and so on, Sly's DNA can be traced back to every cell of the musical stratosphere.

It never hurts to reiterate that they were the first interracial, mixed-race band to have hits. "The music of Sly and the Family Stone was immensely liberating," wrote Harry Weinger on the occasion of the group's induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. "Strong, unbridled funk was exactly A Whole New Thing. a beautiful vision: the first integrated rock band, black, white, women, men. hair, skin. bangs and sweat. Extraordinary vibes for extraordinary times.” If 1968 was indeed the year that changed the world, then Sly and the Family Stone provided the soundtrack to that change.They would go on to create a truly timeless sound.


(Video) SLY & THE FAMILY STONE 1966 Band Then and Now 2023 HOW THEY CHANGED

Sylvester Stewart was born March 15, 1944 in Denton, Texas, the second of five children (Loretta, Sylvester, Freddie, Rose and Vaetta, known as Vet). His devout African-American family belonged to the Church of God in One Christ (COGC) and took their faith with them when they moved to Vallejo, California, a northwest suburb of San Francisco. Raised on church music, Sylvester was eight years old when he and three of his siblings (excluding Loretta) recorded a 78 rpm gospel single for local release as the Stewart Four.

A musical prodigy, he was known as Sly in grade school because a friend had misspelled "Sylvester". One such group, the Viscaynes, boasted an integrated line-up, a fact that did not go unnoticed in the late 1950s. The group recorded a few singles and Sly also released a few singles during this period, in collaboration with his younger brother Freddie.

Sly's musical education continued into the early 1960s at Vallejo Junior College, where he added the trumpet to his bag and also mastered composition and theory. Around 1964, he started out as a fast-talking disc jockey on R&B radio station KSOL. His eclectic taste in music made Sly very popular, as he became an early advocate of including R&B-flavored white artists (particularly British Invasion bands such as the Beatles, the Animals and the Rolling Stones) in the channel's soul music format. Sly later took his gig to KDIA, where he played as a DJ until the release of Sly and the Family Stone in 1967.

But in 1964, as a result of a connection with legendary disc jockey Tom Donahue, Sly was also hired as a producer for the San Francisco-based Autumn Records label. The small label was known for its success with first-generation Bay Area rock bands the Beau Brummels, Charlatans, Great Society and Mojo Men, all benefiting from Sly's unerring ear. Sly was paired with black singer Bobby Freeman, who had already recorded one of the pop/R&B anthems of an era, 1958's "Do You Want To Dance" (Josie Records). In 1964, Sly produced Freeman's No. 5 true pop hit, "C'mon And Swim" (Autumn), which ironically never made the R&B charts.

In 1966, the stage was set for a quantum leap. Sly fronted a band called Sly And the Stoners, featuring African-American trumpeter Cynthia Robinson. Freddie also fronted a band, Freddie And the Stone Souls, with white drummer Gregg Errico. It was white saxophonist Jerry Martini who encouraged Sly and Freddie to combine the best of both bands, leading to the birth of Sly and the Family Stone in March 1967. Freddie took over guitar while Sly quickly mastered the organ. His sister Rose joined on keyboards and vocals, and bassist/vocalist Larry Graham completed the lineup.

Each band's story involves their "breakthrough gig", and for Sly and the Family Stone it was at a club called Winchester Cathedral in Redwood City, where they used to play until dawn. They mixed covers with original material until the originals completely took over. "Once we started doing our own thing," Freddie told rock author Bud Scoppa, "it was really our own thing and we threw all this other stuff out the window." A local CBS Records promoter noticed his act and alerted A&R manager David Kapralik in New York. He flew to the West Coast and wasted no time in signing the band to Epic Records and becoming their manager.

I want to take you higher

(Video) Cynthia Robinson on Meeting Sly Stone and Joining The Family Stone

Sly and the Family Stone changed the Las Vegas status quo when they were booked for a three-month, six-night-a-week performance at the Pussycat a' Go Go, a gathering attended by everyone from James Brown to Bobby Darin. Every Monday on their night off they flew to Los Angeles to record their first album at CBS Studios from June to August 1967. The added weight was provided by the gospel-drenched backing vocals of Sister Vet's Little Sister trio (also known as The Heavenly Tones).

The resulting albuma brand new thing, released at the end of the year, was as poignant a wake-up call as it sounded.Freak out, the iconoclastic debut of Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention (to which many rock critics referred when trying to analyze Sly). Quoting Scopaa brand new thing's "weighing in hot potatoes from the lead vocals, the staccato breath riffs, the archetypal pop attack from Larry Graham's basslines, the solemn lyrics representing community and diversity, the acid rock flourishes and the frantic rhythms."

In addition to their sonic explosion, the band's stage performance was a visual feast, dressed in outfits that skirted the outer limits of hippie psychedelia, thrift store chic and flashy, one-of-a-kind prints. Sly himself was dressed "like the wildest pimp", as Barney Hoskyns wrote decades later. If Sly's groovy music made polite Motown orchestrations obsolete virtually overnight, then these dazzling outfits did away with many a Motor City tux and sweater.

AsFreak out, However,a brand new thingcrossed many borders. It was too hip for the space, but radio (AM and FM) managed to find a place for Sly's debut single, the LP's opening track, "Underdog". Despite testimonials from the likes of Miles Davis, Tony Bennett and Mose Allison, and the corresponding text written by KDIA contributor John Hardy,a brand new thingdid not enter the album charts. That changed just a few weeks later.

Advised to simplify his approach, Sly let his instincts run wild. Without sacrificing the momentum they gaineda brand new thing, Epic Records Rush released the new single “Dance To The Music”. Unfailing success signaled a new LP, most of the tracks (including the single) having been recorded in September 1967, with some dated as early as May. The advent of a catchy, hook-laden single that catapulted into the top 10 on both the pop and R&B sides had the effect of sending people back to the music that had been in front of their noses all along. The new LP, titled after their hitdance to the music, peaked at #11 on the R&B chart, but only peaked at #142 on the pop chart.

But Sly and the Family Stone's music didn't thrive in a vacuum. America was a country struggling with its racial identity, and like every great artist who struggled with his craft in the 1960s, Sly was no exception. The spring and summer of 1968 brought great upheaval and change as the war in Southeast Asia raged and the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy reverberated around the world. Sly played to sold-out audiences in ever-growing venues around the world throughout the year, and his third album,Life(with its theme single), released in November 1968, was simply lost in the tidal wave of events. In hindsight, it was getting dark outside and fateLifeit was the calm before the storm.

Stand up!

(Video) George Clinton Inducts Sly and the Family Stone at the 1993 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Almost as fast asLifehad come and gone, in those last few weeks of 1968 and early 1969, a new song for Sly and the Family Stone was making waves. "Everyday People" was somehow a plea for unity and pride in diversity at the same time,"Different moves for different people/ On and on and on and scooby dooby doo-bee/ Oh sha sha - we gotta live together."The song catalyzed and challenged everyone's feelings towards Sly, whose struggles with his success increasingly came into the public eye. "Everyday People" eventually gave Sly and the Family Stone the RIAA Gold Billboard #1 Pop/#1 R&B hit they were destined to be all along.

OStand up!The album was released in April 1969 and contained "Everyday People" and its B-side "Sing A Simple Song". The follow-up single, "Stand", while not quite the hit of its predecessor (#14 R&B/#22 pop), was revolutionary in its call to arms:"Stand up! / You've been sitting too long / Your right and wrong have a permanent kink / Stand up!"The single's B-side took on a life of its own, "I Want To Take You Higher", a contemporary reworking of "Higher" from the first LP.

Three hit singles (along with several iconic songs including "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" and "Sex Machine") there was no interruption on the charts this time around. OStand up!The album peaked at #3 R&B and #13 pop, was certified as Sly's first RIAA million-seller platinum on December 1, and was on track to spend two solid years on the Billboard charts. Meanwhile, Sly and the Family Stone's early Sunday morning performance at the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair in August was considered one of the true highlights of the festival, as captured on film and soundtrack albums. “Despite all the utopian euphoria ofStand up!' Hoskyns conjectured: 'Sly's position at the intersection of black funk and white hippieism was problematic and untenable.'

That same month (August 1969), a new non-album single was released, the infectious and celebratory "Hot Fun In the Summertime" (#2 pop / #3 R&B). It was the last new song anyone heard from the group until late December '69, when another new non-album single emerged, "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", which magically and majestically climbed straight to the top he got up . It was "a long, drawn-out piece of stupefied funk, a one-chord rage of unparalleled ferocity", as longtime Sly watcher Joel Selvin of the San Francisco Chronicle described it. The RIAA Gold single (with the non-album "Everybody Is a Star") reached No. 1 on both tracks in early February 1970, stayed at No. 1 Pop for a fortnight and No. 6 for a glorious No. . 1 week of R&B.

Relentless touring continued as a long hiatus from formal studio recording ended most of 1970 and 1971. Sly moved the band to Jeanette MacDonald's former Beverly Hills mansion, and a studio was built in the attic, apparently to work on a new album. Instead, exaggerated stories appeared in the media about rampant drug use at home and on the go. As Selvin wrote, “[Sly] also started showing up late to shows. Or it doesn't show up at all. Sly canceled 26 shows out of 80 in 1970 and missed five consecutive shows on Southern Swing in February 1971. He skipped network television appearances. He kept the other band members waiting backstage for hours, wondering if he was going to show up or not."

AGreatest hitswas strategically released for the 1970 holiday season, bringing together earlier hits and the four sides of 1970. The LP peaked at #1 R&B and #2 pop the Christmas week and became a top seller in the CBS catalog at the time. , amassing three million copies. Meanwhile, village life has become legendary, with visits from everyone from Bobby Womack and Herbie Hancock to Miles Davis and Billy Preston. The recordings were by all accounts a catch-as-catch-can affair, with surviving tapes and sessions Selvin described only as "smoky, hazy grooves and visions of the other side".

One such dark groove was the melodic, lilting "Family Affair", released in late October 1971 as the long-awaited new single from Sly and the Family Stone. The previous month, a late promoter had been persuaded to introduce the band to Madison Square Garden for three nights, which promptly sold out in advance and broke MSG box office records at the time. "Family Affair" also broke a record for Sly, reaching No. 1 Pop (for three weeks) and No. 1 R&B (for six weeks) in just one month on the road, the fastest (and last) No. career.

(Video) Bassist Larry Graham, who played with Prince, says he didn't see any signs of trouble before his dea

"Family Affair" was the fulcrum for the band's first new studio LP in two and a half years.There's a riot going on, which also reached No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts within weeks of its release in November. A transformative masterpiece, the LP was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and was ranked #99 on Rolling Stone magazine's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. The title paraphrased the chorus of Leiber and Stoller's classic "Riot in Cell Block #9". But, as Selvin points out, "The label lists the title track as 'There's A Riot Goin' On - 0:00'." That was Sly's little joke. The turmoil continued into his life.”

Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be)

The turmoil that Sly and the Family Stone found themselves in in 1972 and 1973 was just a bizarrely mundane reversal of the turmoil in the world around them. In June 1973, over a year and a half afterThere's a riot going on, the band returned with a new single "If You Want Me To Stay" (#3 R&B/#12 Pop) and a new LP,Frisch, Sly's final #1 R&B LP. The black musicologist Touré spoke of the turmoil around them, citing the ongoing war in Vietnam (which was unfortunately present for much of Sly's prolific career), the Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland, the massacre of Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympics and the Watergate Robbery. The departure of original Family Stone members Larry Graham and Gregg Errico also changed the balance of the band.There's a riot going onEFrisch.

After just five years of career, Sly's new single prepared its listeners for big changes: "I'm about to leave and then you'll know / For me to stay here / It has to be me". most tellingly, an "outsider" song not written by Sly for the first time on one of his LPs. In this case, it was Doris Day's thoughtful Columbia Records 1956 "Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)," sung by Rose Stone, with the haunting chorus "The future's not ours to see..."

In Every Way the 1974 RIAA Gold AlbumSmall talk(#15 pop) and its two singles "Time For Livin'" (#10 R&B, #32 pop, the last top 40 entry of Sly's career) and "Loose Booty" (#22 R&B) marked the end of the road to the familiar stone. The members went their separate ways, with Freddie in particular joining Larry Graham's Graham Central Station, a band that owed much of its sound to Sly Stone.


To stay with Epic Records, Sly recordedhigh on you1975 vcHeard you missed me, well I'm backone year later. An LP by Warner Bros. in 1979,back on track, featured posts by Cynthia. A second album by Warner Bros. was abandoned by Sly in 1981 and completed by its producer in 1982.It's not, but the only way. Sly fell into seclusion with only a few historical reappearances over the years.

(Video) Sly & The Family Stone - If You Want Me To Stay (Audio)

Most notable was the band's induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, when he suddenly emerged from backstage, made a brief remark to the audience, and disappeared again. Equally enigmatic was Sly's brief appearance in a multi-artist tribute to the band at the 2006 Grammy Awards®, a massive event featuring John Legend, Fantasia, Adam Levine, Ciara, Steve Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, among others. Everyone was stunned when, midway through "I Want To Take You Higher", Sly abruptly waved to the audience, walking offstage and letting the stars complete the song as he disappeared into the night.

A musical visionary of the highest caliber, Sly Stone carved his way into our American culture and then retired when his job was done. The music of Sly and the Family Stone, particularly the singles and LPs from those groundbreaking seven years from 1968 to 1975, influenced generations that Sly could never have predicted.

For further reading:
Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History von Joel Selvin (HarperCollins, 1998)
There's a riot going on by Miles Marshall Lewis (Bloomsbury-Reihe „33 1/3“, 2006)


How do I contact Sly Stone? ›

Fill out an entertainment request form or call our office at (212) 645-0555 and one of our Sly Stone booking agents will assist you in hiring Sly Stone for a private event anywhere in the world.

Why was Larry Graham kicked out of Sly and the Family Stone? ›

The story of the frightening time leading up to Graham's expulsion by Sly's henchmen -- who had beaten members of the band's road crew -- had never been told until band members and associates were interviewed for the new oral history of the pioneering soul-rock band, "For the Record: Sly and the Family Stone" by ...

What ever happened to Sly and the Family Stone? ›

In January 1975, the band booked itself at Radio City Music Hall in New York. The famed music hall was only one-eighth occupied, and Stone and company had to scrape together money to return home. Following the Radio City engagement, the band was dissolved.

Who are the original members of Sly and the Family Stone? ›

He was among the area's top soul music deejays when, adopting his radio name, Sly Stone, he founded the Family Stone in 1967. The group comprised his brother Freddie (guitar) and younger sister Rose (piano), trumpeter Robinson, saxophonist Martini, drummer Errico, and bassist Graham.

Who owns Sly Stone publishing? ›

The Estate of Michael Jackson and MIJAC Music, Jackson's personal publishing company, have acquired majority ownership of the U.S. rights to Sly and the Family Stone's catalog and, as part of the arrangement, will retain long-term administration rights.

Where does Sly Stone currently live? ›

According to a New York Post article, he used to live in a sprawling, four-bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills, but now resides in a white van in Los Angeles. “I like a small camper,” he says. “I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place.


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