Self-editing is overrated. Or is it?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Finally, a reason to watch the Grammys!


Hey hey hey!

All right, a very interesting article in today's Washington Post about the rumor that Sly and The Family Stone will be reuniting for the Grammys. This would be the first appearance of the entire band together since 1971. This, in itself, would be impressive, but it's even more impressive because Sly has not been seen in public (with one exception) in over 13 years.

Sly Stone's story is a long and involved one, but you can pretty much glean the facts quickly: multi-racial funk band, with an amazing new sound that literally blew people away when it came out of nowhere (there was no precedent for Sly and The Family Stone), a slew of hit songs including "Dance to the Music," "I Want to Take You Higher," "Hot Fun in the Summertime," "Family Affair" and "Everyday People". Drugs, ego, and some crazy, crazy behavior by Sly drove the band to self-destruct, and it was all over. In 4 years, Sly and The Family Stone changed the face of pop music, and then they were gone.

In the ensuing years since then, the other band members have all had varyinig degrees of success. Probably the most famous was bassist Larry Graham, who formed Graham Central Station, and quickly became the fonkiest bass player alive. In my opinion, his song "The Jam" is the single most underrated funk song of all time. That thing is a MONSTER. In recent years, Larry has mostly been hanging out with Prince, which sounded like a great idea, except that Larry is now a born-again Christian, and he's basically the one who convinced Prince not to perform any his songs that had explicit sexual content ever again. Which, as you can imagine, is like half of Prince's catalog. All he has to do now is make Prince give up any of his songs that mention God, and we'll all basically have to listen to "Raspberry Beret" on repeat forever. Great work, LG. Thanks a lot.

Sly, on the other hand, has been completely out of sight for a very long time. He stopped giving interviews in 1987. He stopped leaving the house not long after that. The rumors about Sly were not good: he blew all his money on drugs, he's broke, he's insane, he's in really bad health, he has a hunchback. (I'm serious, supposedly he now has a hunchback, something to do with how he's been treating himself over the years. Definitely not good.)

Then something really weird happened not too long ago. He showed up somewhere. Then things started getting even more mysterious. Here's what happened:

Some years ago, Sly's little sister Vaetta started what was basically a tribute band to Sly and The Family Stone called the Phunk Phamily Affair. They do pretty well, Cynthia Robinson - the trumpeter from the Family Stone - came on as a member, and they started touring around the country.

Then they get to Los Angeles for their show at the Knitting Factory, and, like it usually does in LA, things got weird fast.

The first thing that happened was that Sly showed up.


That's him on the front of the bike, his sister on the back. Not much of a picture, I know, but that's the first photo of Sly since 1993. That is definitely him.

Now, the next weird thing that happened was that, at this show, it was announced that from this point on, the Phunk Phamily Affair would be known as The Family Stone. Sly was now their "executive producer". Wait a minute, what? Who's band is this? What the hell is going on?

Sly's never been one for straight answers, and to compound the confusion even further, when you look up Sly on the internet, there are no less that FOUR websites all claiming to be the "official website": there is Sony's site, there is this official site called Backstage, which looks nice, but contains no info, then there's the new Family Stone site (which is just the Phunk Phamily's site), and finally the PhattaDatta site, which naturally claims that it is the only "true official website". It's hard to tell who's in charge, although that alone would certainly indicate that Sly is in charge.


Now, ostensibly, this whole event at the Grammys is to promote this new album called Different Strokes For Different Folks, a tribute album in which today's hottest stars massacre...I mean, cover their favorite Sly Stone songs. Maybe Sly got wind of this record, and decided to show people what he's really all about, before these other artists screw it up.

Honestly, the fact that he's still breathing is a miracle in itself. Drummer Gregg Errico put it best:

"It's amazing he's still here,"
he said in an interview last fall. "But he is. I always say that a cat has nine lives, and Sly has nine cats. He's a character in every respect."

Don't miss this people. Short of Syd Barrett getting out of the hospital or John Lennon coming back from the dead, this is one of your last chances to see a comback from a true superstar that vanished into thin air.

Read the sequel here!


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