Dance To The Music - Sly and The Family Stone

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"Dance To The Music" - Sly and The Family Stone (1967)

"Dance to the Music" was the first song by soul/funk/rock band Sly and the Family Stone to become a Top-Ten hit. It became a major "party dance tune" and popularized the band's sound, which would be emulated throughout the black music industry and later dubbed "psychedelic soul".

Composed by Sly Stone himself, none of the other members of the group particularly liked it when it was first recorded and released as they didn't think it was 'hip" enough for the image they want to convey. One of them called it as "glorified Motown beats."

Originally, Sly Stone wanted to go in a more psychedelic rock direction but at the insistence of CBS Records executive Clive Davis, he was swayed to create a commercially viable radio hit for the band's 1967 LP, A Whole New Thing.

Stone crafted a unique formula, blending the band's distinct psychedelic rock leanings with a more pop-friendly sound.  "Dance to the Music" did exactly what Davis wanted it to do: it launched Sly & the Family Stone into the pop consciousness.

Even toned down for pop audiences, the band and it's radical sound caught many music fans and fellow recording artists completely off guard. It featured four co-lead singers, black musicians and white musicians in the same band- this being only four years after segregation had been repealed in the US. It showcased a distinct blend of instrumental sounds: rock guitar riffs from Sly's brother Freddie Stone, a funky bassline , a syncopated drum track, and Sly's gospel-styled organ playing.

The track opens with trumpeter Cynthia Robinson screaming to the audience, demanding that they "get on up...and dance to the music!" before the Stone brothers and bassist Larry Graham break into an "a cappella scat" before the song's verses begin.

The actual lyrics are sparse and self-referential. The song serves as a Family Stone theme song of sorts, introducing drummer Gregg Errico, saxophonist Jerry Martini, and Robinson. After calling on Robinson and Martini for their solo, Sly tells the audience that "Cynthia an' Jerry got a message that says...", which Robinson finishes: "All the squares go home!"

Considered to be one of the most influential songs of the late-1960s,  Sly & the Family Stone dominated African-American and the "psychedelic soul" sound of the early '70s leading to the development of what is now known as funk music. Many established artists, such as The Temptations and their producer Norman Whitfield, Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Impressions, The Four Tops, The Jackson 5, The 5th Dimension, and War began turning out Family Stone-esque material.


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