Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sly Stone and The Family Stone

James Brown may have invented funk, but Sly Stone perfected it; his alchemical fusion of soul, rock, gospel, and psychedelia rejected stylistic boundaries as much as his explosive backing band the Family Stone ignored racial and gender restrictions, creating a series of euphoric yet politically charged records that proved a massive influence on artists of all musical and cultural backgrounds.

In 1966, Stewart formed the group Sly & the Stoners, while his younger brother Freddie led his own band, Freddie & the Stone Souls; soon the siblings merged the two acts, and with bassist Larry Graham, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, saxophonist Jerry Martini, and drummer Greg Errico, Sly & the Family Stone were born.

As the group's chief vocalist, songwriter, and producer, Stone pushed the envelope further with each successive release; and with the 1970 chart-topper "Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin," he essentially created the sonic blueprint for the funk and disco that dominated the decade to follow via a percussive groove propelled by Graham's pop-and-slap bassline.
However, as the utopian ideals of the 1960s gave way to the paranoia and corruption of the 1970s, the celebratory sound that once epitomized Sly & the Family Stone gave way to the bleakly unsettling There's a Riot Goin' On, a dark, militant masterpiece that yielded the hits "Family Affair" and "Running Away."

Released in 1973, Fresh was Sly & the Family Stone's last truly great album, and after issuing Small Talk the band unraveled, with 1975's High on You credited to Stone alone.

Sly & the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

(Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide)

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