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.
Posted by Glenn