When I found out that Sly & The Family Stone got there start in the late 60's and not the early 70's (which I know is only a matter of years) I was kind of stunned. For me, funk has always been associated with the 70's. Yes, James Brown had been around for a while at this point (altho he will come in 1970 on this list.) For some reason, funk always coincided with disco for me. James Brown may have started funk in a sense, but to me, Sly & The Family Stone really got it started. After a string of amazing singles like "Dance to the Music", "M'Lady", "Stand!" and "Everyday People", Sly stepped it up big time. 1969's single "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" changed the way funk approached things. The bass stepped up and said "I am the centerpiece." You would see the bass takeover funk rock more so than ever before after this and it's all thanks to Sly's bass player, pioneer Larry Graham. He basically invented the slap style of bass playing that is signature to this song. His bass has an amazing wah effect to it and has the slap and plucky bass style that would eb the M.O. of funk records to come. It all comes from this track.
The song is a sort of litany of song titles from the past. On the surface, it seems to be pretty straightforward, but it has a lot more going on. Beyond the self reference that goes on (many of the lyrics are past song titles,) but it's more a song of distaste for the world around them at the time. The flower power age was dying. Paranoia was at an all time high and the Civil Rights movement was at a fever pitch. The most powerful lyrics in the song come late in the last verse of the song:
Flamin' eyes of people fear
Burnin' into you
Many men are missin' much
Hatin' what they do
Youth and truth are makin' love
Dig it for a starter, now
Dyin' young is hard to take
Sellin' out is harder
The song is on so many levels amazing. Musically it's perfect. A funky bass groove, a fantastic guitar riff, a group vocal effort and a horn section that accentuates the entire groove. You wouldn't notice how intense the words are (hence the strange title) as they are lathered in a groove so amazing you can't help but dance. Sly knew what was going on and this is a protest song of sorts that makes you forget the protest and dance, but on closer listen makes you more aware of the troubles of the time.
This video makes up for all the crappy ones in the past few entries. Thank God!
UP NEXT!: 1970 finally begins. The best year in Rock music. It get's kicked off with an unlikely band in Grand Funk Railroad. Trust me. This next song is incredible.