loving me some Sly...

I love me some Sly and the Family Stone! Period. No qualifications offered and no apologies accepted: He was a freakin' genius. And when the Family Stone played together for all too short a time, they changed my world. The new Jeff Buckley album, You and I, features a cover of "Everyday People" and it might spark a renewal of interest in the master. 

But the real break through is the new album recorded live at the Fillmore: Buckley reworks this song with insight and grace - he, too, is a master - but when it comes to kick ass funk, bold genre bending all within the context of challenging the confines of cultural, racial, artistic and political limitations, ain't NOBODY got a thing on Sly Stone.  Apparently the man made a guest appearance last night in Tampa, FLA - and brought the house down again. He's battled more than his share of demons from anger, dope, wicked managers and broken hearts and STILL can sing "Thankyouforlettingmebe-micelfagain" with conviction and groove. In his time, he married the sounds of James Brown and Bob Dylan with MLK, the Grateful Dead and Miles Davis - and brought it center stage, too. For a few years, his songs filled the air waves with smiles and hope. Damn, but I love this man!

If you can remember back to the first time you heard "Dance to the Music" in 1968 you will know that there was NOTHING like it anywhere in America at that time. I still make a point of listening to that song every few weeks just because I need a shot of the good thing!  They were - and are - black and white, female and male, jazz and rock and everything all mixed together in groove that never loses the heart but always creates something new, too.

My favorite, however, remains "Everyday People." It is theologically rock solid, a song filled with a message of racial harmony, humility and humor that is built upon a riff of restrained funk and gospel harmonies.  When we were back in Arizona, "Everyday People" became one of our theme songs. We had women and men singing the various tag lines - everyone singing the chorus in intricate harmonies - and playing it to open the first showdown for marriage equality to a gay/straight/trans audience. It works in church, in bars, on the street and in our hearts because it is honest and sweet.
I could keep gushing about this band - and its leader - but let me just say that when Prince made the scene a decade later, I heard the Purple Master mixing Sly with Joni Mitchell and George Clinton - with a ton of James Brown, Jimi Hendrex and Stevie Wonder in the mix, too - in what became a living homage. If you are ever feeling down, if you are ever feeling discouraged or blue, if you ever think there is nobody who "gets" you: then RUN, don't walk or daddle, and put on "Thankyou...." It will make you shake your booty and get out of your own way long enough to sense the miracle within and all around you. 

Sly has been called the "J.D. Salinger" of funk, but this cat can still cut it. I saw him twice in Central Park - back to back two nights in a row when he closed a show opened by The Eagles - and it was transcendent. Loved him then and love him now.


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