The Mystery of Sly & The Family Stone’s first single

In 1968, Sly Stone wrote “Dance to the Music.” Almost immediately, Sly & The Family Stone recorded it and submitted it to Epic Records where it was an instant hit, reaching #8 the Billboard Top 100.

However, there are some who believe that Sly & The Family Stone’s first hit was not “Dance to the Music,” but rather a different song under a completely different band name.

In 1967,  Sly & The Stoners (Sly’s band) and Freddie & The Stone Souls (led by Sly’s brother, Freddie Stone) combined to make the original lineup of Sly & The Family Stone. It was in this same year, a year before he composed “Dance to the Music,” when Sly wrote a song called “Life and Death in G & A” for A & M Records.

Even though “Life in Death in G & A” was written 1n 1967, it didn’t actually chart until 1969, making it all the way to #74. So, if this recording were actually recorded by the newly formed Sly & The Family Stone, it would technically be their first recorded single.

The listed members of Abaco Dream are Paul Douglas, David Williams, Dennis Williams, Frank Malo, and Mike Sassano. So, either they recorded a very Sly & The Family Stone-style song written by Sly himself or, for some reason, the actual Sly & The Family Stone decided to get into the studio soon after deciding to become a band and release a song under the name Abaco Dream.

The most notable musicologist to pose that “Life and Death in G & A” is actually a Sly & The Family Stone recording was Joel Whitburn in his book Top Pop Singles 1955-1999 in which he offers extensive research on all of the Billboard singles between these years. Impressive.

And, at least for me, it’s pretty easy to believe Whitburn’s theory. The song certainly sounds like Sly & The Family Stone – the ever present bass line laying strong foundation, electric guitar fills at opportune moments, and, of course, the inescapable power of the horn section that doesn’t let up.

Still, whether you believe that Abaco Dream’s “Life and Death in G & A” was performed by Sly & The Family Stone or not, it’s an interesting little mystery in funk music. More importantly, it’s a pretty cool song written by then relatively-fresh-on-the-scene Sly Stone.

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