Sly Before and After the Family Stone

Sunday school don't make you cool forever.

Sly Stone

        The tale of Sylvester “Sly Stone” Stewart includes the rise and fall of one of the most influential psychedelic musical artists coming out of the North Bay of San Francisco. Sly manufactured hits that infused Rock, Jazz, and Rhythm Blues bringing life to the new psychedelic funk era for audiences of all races. With the inclusion of his siblings and other white musicians, Sly and The Family Stone created hits such as “Dance to the Music” (1968) and “I Want to Take You Higher” (1969). However, with the sudden rise to stardom in the highly drug-influenced funk era, there became many opportunities for failure. Sly Stone indefinitely contributed a unique brilliance to the funk era of the 1960s; however, due to the highly-influenced drug culture of the psychedelic era and personal problems, his popularity declined. 

Early Gospel Life

  • Sylvester “Sly Stone” Stewart was born the second child of the Stewart family in Denton, Texas.
  • Sylvester was very fluent in the arts as a child and was labeled a “musical prodigy” as he was skilled on the keyboard, bass, drums, and guitar. 
  • The family moved Sylvester and his siblings at a young age to Vallejo, California, the”North Bay of San Francisco”. 
  • Growing up within the Church of God in Christ, Sylvester, his brother, Freddie , and his two sisters, Rose and Vaetta formed a gospel group called, “The Stewart Four”. 
  • They released songs like “On the Battlefield” and “Walking in Jesus Name” as early as 1953.

High School Blues

  • In the early 1960s, Sly began to work as a soul radio host of KSOL, incorporating  predominantly white tracks in the playlists , such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. 
  • As Sylvester grew older and more adept in music, he played in many bands, most popularly, “The Viscaynes & Friends.”  
  • The group became grew very popular in the well-liked white doo-wop culture of the 60’s, with hits like “Stop What You Are Doing” and “Yellow Moon” 
  • All of the group members were friends in high school music clubs, including 2 minority members; Sly Stone and Frank Arellano of Filipino descent. 
  • “The Viscaynes & Friends” integrated musical group is what inspired Sly Stone to incorporate multi-cultural musicians in “Sly and the Family Stone”.

Sly and the Family Stone

  • Sly and the Family Stone were easily one of the most famed psychedelic groups that infused a creative mixture of RnB, Rock, and Soul attracting a highly-integrated musical audience. 
  • The group promoted racial equality and broke many racial boundaries due to their culturally-mixed sound and group members.
  • Sly and the Family Stone were active between 1966 to 1983 having a total of 18 members. 
  • The group has influenced a plethora of artists after their time, such as the The Temptations, Prince, and Rick James. 
  • Hits include: “Dance to the Music/Everyday People” (1967), “Hot Fun in the Summertime/Everybody Is a Star” (1969).
  • They were most known for their outstanding performance at Woodstock in 1969. 
  • When Bob Marley and the Wailers first played in the U.S., they opened for Sly and the Family Stone tour in 1973. 

After the Fame

  • There were problems between members Larry Graham and Stone’s brothers.
  • The Black Panther Party demanded that the group should replace all of its white instrumentalists with black musicians and make more politically-active music, but Sly declined.
  • The group decided to move to Los Angeles, where they found themselves indulging in heavy drug activity, specifically cocaine and PCP. 
  • Sly Stone was known for carrying around a guitar case filled with drugs, wherever he went. 
  • Sly also got married to Kathy Silva at the Madison Square Garden and had his first child in 1974. He had a total of three children after her. 
  • Silva stated that Sly would abuse her and she left when her son was mauled by Sly’s dog. 
  • With the mix of drugs and personal problems, the group disintegrated by 1984. 
  • After the failure of random singles he dropped as a solo act, he slightly disappeared. 
  • He appeared in many music festivals throughout 2007, performing with the George Clinton. 
  • Sources say that he has been living in a van and homeless in the LA area. 
  • However, he successfully sued his former manager for $5 million due to stealing his royalty payments. 
  • Apparently, he is still making music wherever he goes. 

        In conclusion, Sly Stone indefinitely contributed a unique brilliance to the funk era of the 1960s; however, due to the highly-influenced drug culture of the psychedelic era and personal problems, his popularity declined. His influence is never forgotten, though. His daughter has a band called “Baby Stone” that continues to tour today. Alive members of the Sly and the Family Stone meet up every year to tribute the band’s success. Multiple youtube documentaries have been released about the band; however, the most popular biopic was On the Sly: In Search of the Family Stone released in 2017. 

Works Cited

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