Sly & The Family Stone were the first hugely successful rock band to embrace the diversity of their band members. In The Guardian, Barney Hoskyns refers to the band as “the multi-race/gender collective that was the Family Stone.”
Not only was the band made up of different races and genders, they went a step further and celebrated it openly, weaving the theme of openness and acceptance into their music. Songs like “Everyday People” and “Everybody Is a Star” are perfect anthems for integration.
Even the most overtly racially charged Sly & The Family Stone track “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” is, in its own way, fair in doling out racial slurs. The chorus repeats: “Don’t call me nigger, whitey / Don’t call me whitey, nigger.” Yes, the terms themselves are slanderous. But, they’re even. In the song, everyone involved is both being both insulted and insulting someone else.
But, the band’s multicultural makeup wasn’t only an appealing idea to them. Fans of all races loved Sly & The Family Stone. In a 1976 interview, Sly talks about their mass appeal (for this part of the video, skip to 5:30, but the whole interview is interesting. Plus, it’s always fun to hear Sly talk.)
Sly & The Family Stone were (and still are) easy to love. They were immensely talented, original, and diverse, all of which made them one of the most celebrated bands to come out the 60s and 70s.
In the spirit of the band’s mass appeal, listen to “Hot Fun In the Summertime,” one of the band’s biggest commercial successes, released during the rapid growth of their fanbase after Woodstock in 1969.
And that’s it for Sly & The Family Stone week! Thanks for reading, and happy listening.
“Looking at the Devil” by Barney Hoskyns – The Guardian
“Sly and the Family Stone Biography” – The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum