Sly Stone is one of the greatest musician in black music history. In music, in general. Without him, no Prince.
Of course, there are a lot of other legends in black music, more famous than he is... But he was among the first to conceive music as a gigantic melting-pot: black and white, soul, funk, jazz, rock...
He exploded in the face of the world in 1969, at the Woodstock festival, with an ecstatic and boosted version of "Wanna Take You Higher".
This song is literally possessed. Except the guitar riff at the beginning, the music turns on just one bass note, that creates some kind of permanent roar, of rhythmic and deeply sensual cauldron, on top of which Sly Stone and his band scream their incantations... and take you higher, higher, higher...
In his band, Sly had a formidable weapon: the infamous Larry Graham, creator of slap.
Slap is this little "clack" that you can hear on this intergalactic groovalistic joint called "Thank You Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again".
Just like "Wanna take you higher", this tune turns on just one bass note, from the beginning to the end.
But, if "Wanna Take You Higher" is a tune that roks almost every part of your body, "Thank You..." clearly "talks" to your hips. This bass groove is an inducement to commit crime...
Sly Stone didn't just wrote ultra-funky joints, he also composed songs with a pop vibe, still inhabited by an intense vital energy and a faith in something I could not define, but that touches me everytime.
Among these pop songs, there is "Everyday People", that was sampled in the 90s by Arrested Development, who re-named it (in a very original way)... "People Everyday"...
Despite the awful quality of the video and the WONDERFUL afro haircuts (jealousy makes me write this), the music is still exceptional.
And there is these lyrics that sums what music really is: a sublimation of its writer's riches and beauties, as well as his weaknesses and fears:
"Sometimes I'm right and I can be wrong My own beliefs are in my song"
And there is this little wonder... "Everybody Is A Star".
(followed by an atomic version of "Wanna Take You Higher")
This is one of my favorite songs, because it corresponds, maybe even better than the previous one, to what Music can be, this absolute simplicity, this touching naivety that will always make a true musician stay a little dreaming child..
"Everybody is a star I can feel it when you shine on me I love you for who you are Not the one you feel you need to be Ever catch a falling star Ain't no stopping 'til it's in the ground Everybody is a star One big circle going round and round"
This is an extraordinary song, because everytime you listen to it, you BELIEVE that what it says is true.
And when Sly sings to you: "shine shine shine!"... There nothing to say but smiling and... shine.
Unfortunately, Sly stopped shining in the 70s, drown in paranoid and multiple attempts to justify his name...
But his music will always speak of who he is, if one is able to go beyond "attitude"... and see all the wonders it has to give.
About The Author: Kinishao is a pop music designer. He's just released his first EP, "Pages - Vol.1". You can hear it and get free tracks on his website, www.kinishao.com.