10 Songs, 37 Minutes

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About Sly Stone

It’s impossible to tell the story of the ’60s counterculture without Sly Stone. A product of the Church of God in Christ (and later a San Francisco radio DJ who peppered his soul sets with Dylan and The Beatles), the songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and creative thrust of Sly & The Family Stone fused the elation of gospel with the radical edge of psychedelia and funk. Despite cosmetic differences, these styles held similar goals: transcendence of self through surrender to music. Politically astute and proudly integrated (Stone was one of the few black artists to perform at Woodstock), the band and their sound became a bellwether for the era, mixing protest and party in equal measure. The Denton, Texas-born Stone pioneered funk while also blowing out its borders—just listen to There’s a Riot Goin’ On, which turned the genre inward, capturing the bleakness and paranoia of America just as the country was becoming mired in Vietnam. And while Stone projected unity (“Everyday People”), he also carved out a space that felt unapologetically black (“Don’t Call Me N****r, Whitey”), a balancing act that made him a guidepost for Prince, Outkast, and dozens of others, regardless of genre. Even when things got dark, both in his life and on record, his songs embodied a tremendously uplifting promise: that music could be revolutionary and still get people dancing.

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