SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE: Whatever happened to this 60s rock and soul band?

Steven Cataris:

In the Nineteen-Seventies, Sly and the Family Stone developed a bad reputation for live performances. Often the band would cancel a show without notice, or Sly would walk out before the show ended. The band, Sly and the Family Stone, was officially dissolved in 1975 after a Radio City Music Hall concert was only one-eighth full.

In 1976 an album,’Heard Ya Miss Me Well I’m Back’ appeared under the Sly and the Family Stone name. Apart from Sly, trumpetist Cynthia Robinson, and some members of their backing band Little Sister, it featured an entirely new band. It was the band’s poorest-selling album since ‘Life’ (1968).

Epic Records released Sly Stone from his recording contract in 1977. In 1979, they released an album of Sly and the Family Stone remixed for disco play, ’10 Years Too Soon.’

Sly Stone signed a record deal with Warner Bros and released solo albums and toured.

It wasn’t until 1992 that new material appeared under the Sly and the Family Stone moniker: a Todds CD Remix of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” on the charity compilation ‘Red Hot + Dance.’ There was a drought until ‘I’m Back! Family & Friends’ came out in 2011 on Cleopatra Records. This was a new Sly and the Family Stone album, but it contained just three new songs. The rest of the album was remixes and re-recordings of old songs.

Sly and the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and Sly was even in attendance for the presentation. The band reunited without Sly for the 2006 Grammy Award. He had been invited, but arrived late for rehearsals and did not attend others. However, on the night, during a performance of “I Want to Take You Higher,” Sly appeared halfway through, sang vocals, played keyboards, then left before the rest of the band finished.

Sly Stone now lives in seclusion. I once saw a documentary about him. The makers tried to track him down, but couldn’t find him. It was reported in the ‘New York Post’ in 2011 that Sly was homeless and living in a camper-van. He has friends who make sure he is fed, and they allow him to shower at his home. If that’s true, it’s a sad way for someone who contributed so much to popular culture to live out the rest of his days.

The last notice of a Sly and the Family Stone concert I can find occurred in 2013. They appeared on a double bill with KC and the Sunshine Band.

Trivia: My first contact with the band’s music was in 1980, when the British post-punk band Magazine released “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” as a single. Magazine’s lead singer Howard Devoto was interviewed on Australian radio. The interviewer told him that he found out that when all the unsold Australian copies of the 1971 Sly and the Family Stone album ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On’ were returned to the record company, they found out that the same amount of albums that had been pressed, had been returned. So it sold zero copies in Australia!

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