“Country fair in the country sun”

Sly and the Family Stone – “Hot Fun In The Summertime” from Greatest Hits (1970) [originally released 1969]

Ya know what’s sad? (No, not the death of Michael Jackson.) Sly Stone (nee Stewart)’s slow descent into addiction in the 1970s, and his sad attempts at reemergence in recent years. Before that he was one of the smartest and most creative singers and arrangers in rock and roll or soul or whatever genre he worked in. “You can’t figure out what bag I’m in,” indeed.

What’s so tragic, or ironic, is that Sly’s early vision was almost beatific in its idealism — a band of blacks and whites, men and women, family and otherwise, performing a peace-bringing mash-up of psychedelia, rock, R&B, pop, and funk. Listening to Greatest Hits back in the day, you might have thought that partying down really might bring about a better world. (Cf. “Maybe Partying Will Help,” The Minutemen, one of the few bands near Sly/Family on the inventiveness-vs.-funkiness coordinate plane.)

Parties end in hangovers, and Sly suffered from a major one.

But shit! Before all that, Sly put out a load of stone-cold (sorry) good-time classics, including “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” possibly his best, and certainly appropriate for hot midsummer. Please play it loud and often.

By the way, I agree with Christgau here: Sly & The Family Stone’s Greatest Hits is one of the greatest rock LPs of all time. Certainly better than any of The Gloved One’s creepy opi. (Sorry to dwell, but the day demands it. Dude’s overrated. MJ’s ballads, for one, are more treacly than Stevie Wonder’s, and that’s saying something. Seriously, “You Are Not Alone”? “Man In The Mirror”? Those songs creeps the fuck out of me, and not just ’cause dude liked to paw little boys.)

(Huh, apparently Sly produced the Beau Brummels back in the early ’60s, for Autumn Records. Whaddya know?)

Here’s a fascinating interview with Sly on KCRW last month.

Buy Sly

Posted by Glenn


Filed under 1960s, 1970s, Funk, Pop, Soul

5 responses to ““Country fair in the country sun”

  1. MJ4EVER


    Figured I’d get that out of the way. I really like Jackson’s dance tracks and the stuff with his brothers, but I haven’t ever been one for the ballads either.

    Sly Stone on the other hand did krank out some serious gems before getting hooked in a bad way. I’m partial to “I Wanna Take You Higher” and basically all of Stand! and There’s a Riot…

    I recall having read on a gatefold Funkadelic/Clinton/Parliament album that apparently while Sun Ra and Pharoah Saunders had ascended to Saturn or some kind of spaceship somewhere, Sly Stone had been taken prisoner by the evil one or something like that. I tried to find it online–I’ve always thought P-Funk mythology, Sun Ra’s sci-fi stuff, and Scientology/Nuwabianism were pretty interesting and kind of similar in a bonkers kind of way.

  2. Jeff Wheeler

    Should’ve mentioned, that was me.


  3. Yeah, I’m still working on getting into the P-Funk universe. I have some of the Maggot Brain stuff, but I want to start w/ One Nation Under A Groove (unfortunately hard to find).

  4. well said- your words echo my feelings about this amazing musician really well.
    there are very few among the funky who have been able synthesize so many strands into a mad, massive coherent groove… Prince, a few others…
    a sad coda to an amazing groove….

  5. still bill

    having elected myself as Sly’s BIGGEST FAN I’m compel to say something of his drug over-use, who cares…Sylvester’s poetry speaks for itself, his lyricism is still some of the most inventive thats ever been recorded, to bad the industry saw fit to undermine his production values (where do you think he got all them drugs) he’s one of the BEST ARRANGERS EVER…however, I do think Sly’s largest mistake was NOT making up with Larry Graham because thats where so much of the early bands energy, which feed the band’s sanctified grooves, went.

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