The Heart of Rock and Soul
Dave Marsh, 1989
After two hundred takes failed to get an acceptable "White Rabbit" from a pre-Jefferson Airplane group featuring Grace Slick, disc jockey/ record producer Sylvester Stewart vowed to forget that acid-rock shit. So he renamed himself Sly Stone and formed his own band to play "the first fusion of psychedelia and rhythm and blues." In the Family Stone, men and women, black and white, played and sang as equals and each member's voice matched his or her instrument (i.e., bassist Larry Graham both played and sang bass. while Cynthia Robinson had the same brassy range and timbre as her trumpet). More startling, in Sly's songs rock and soul -- that is, black and white post -- Presley pop-intermingled till you couldn't find where one began and the other left off.
The nursery rhyme simplicity and seductive tunefulness of "Everyday People." their third single and first Number One hit. make it almost too sweet to be true, and its fusion of rock and soul elements reflects an integrated symmetry that's still breathtaking.
"Everyday People" proposes something even more radical than "different strokes for different folks" (a phrase it placed in the permanent American vernacular). The song argues that the healing power of music even encompasses curing rifts among races and classes. That was a corny/naive idea even in 1968, yet the record remains convincing because it so delightedly practices everything it preaches, You could spend a lifetime fathoming what gives Sly the courage to declare (at a time when the unity of the civil rights movement was disintegrating into a dagger's length truce), "We got to live together!"
Even if the record's final boast, "I AM everyday people" means only that the "we " who had to live together were the antagonistic sides of Sly's own personality, these are words to live by.