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December 29, 2014 / thackersam

December 28 – Sly & the Family Stone – Super Hits

SlyYou know what’s been helping me through the holidays? The holiday season is traditionally not so good for me, starting with my birthday/Thanksgiving, which builds like a snowball as we get to this time. You know that about me, right? Although last year it started on a much more positive note with a great birthday and a not so bad Thanksgiving. This year – eh. So to answer the question I first posed, this Sly & the Family Stone compilation CD that is just one of many greatest hits albums for this 60s-70s iconic group was not only a nice find music-wise, I am also appreciating the implications that Sly and the family conveyed so long ago. Some songs were a little hokey back then to a cynic like me, but they are filled with positive messages for all folk.

The Family Stone’s appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show were memorable as mega-afro’d (I always loved a good fro) and shirtless Sly and his platinum blond sister (didn’t see many blond black women back then) danced and sang their way into the audience as white men in suits and ties smiled at them, some getting into it, some merely amused, some not so much either way. But Sly was every bit of a Mr. Showman, and persevered in his quest to raise awareness, spirit, confidence and sense of family across the lines while bringing rock ‘n roll to all, even the suit and tie crowd.

I knew the blond was Sly’s sister, though I didn’t know her name. The sister, Rose played keyboards and sang, brother Freddie played guitar and sang, Larry Graham was the bassist, Greg Errico the drummer and Jerry Martini was the sax player. We all knew the name of the trumpet player though from the line in the group’s hit “Dance to the Music.” That line, as I now understand it to be, has Sly singing “Cynthia and Jerry got a message they’re sayin’” and Cynthia, whose name is the only comprehendible one, yells “All the squares, go home.” Now, all the lyrics sheets I have found state that she sings, “All the squares go home,” however in listening to it over and over, if she is saying “go home” rather than “far out” she may be a great trumpet player but lousy annunciator. No matter. Along with the encouragement offered in songs like “You Can Make it if You Try,” “Higher” and “Everyday People,” oh and let’s not forget “Stand,” the fact that even though only three of the seven members of the group were related and two of the seven were white, they demonstrated that family was more than just blood and color. Plus, they had a girl trumpeter. Girls didn’t play trumpet. Not back then. Girls played piano or acoustic guitar if they played an instrument at all. Cynthia Robinson, black, fro’d and female was a great influence for girls like me who even from a very, very young age found the limitations placed on girls irksome. Still do. To me, she was incredibly cool.

So, I’ve been playing this CD over and over during the holiday season, and have found its feel good music is helping me keep my head above the doldrums and helping me feel good about myself and others, just as the it is intended to do. It offers a lively bit of exercise and fun sing-along. So it occurs to me, particularly in these times of conflict – where is Sly and his family Stone when we need them?

Christmas carols? Feh – a pox on them all. Sly & the Family Stone’s Super Hits is my new Christmas album.

Cynthia

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