Sunday, February 15, 2009

Forty Years Ago Today: “Everyday People” hits #1 (2/15/1969)

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Sly & the Family Stone “Everyday People”

Writer(s): Sly Stone (see lyrics here)

First charted: 11/30/1968

Peak: 14 US, 12 RB, 36 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 3.3

Review: Sylvester Stewart, aka “Sly Stone,” was musical from the start. He saw a recording studio for the first time when he was four years old, singing “On the Battlefield for My Lord” with his family’s gospel group the Stewart Four. In regards to growing up with music, he said, “That’s all I had to play with. No toys.” BR1-251

In high school, he recorded the song “Yellow River” as a member of the vocal quintet the Viscanes. In junior college, he learned music composition, which led to work with Autumn Records BR1-251 producing hits “Laugh Laugh” and “Just a Little” for white pop group the Beau Brummels RS500 and Bobby Freeman’s “Come on and Swim.” BR1-251 He then worked as a DJ in San Francisco saying of the time, “I was into everyone’s records. I’d play Dylan, Hendrix, James Brown back to back so I didn’t get stuck in any one groove.” RS500

That taste for diversity played out when he formed the racially-integrated Family Stone. In a time when jeans and tie-dye ruled the psychedelic scene in San Francisco, Stone’s stage act was marked by elaborate costumes, glitter, and stage movements. BR1-251 He found a wide audience with “Everyday People,” a song with a “gospel message of brotherhood, couched in dance funk” BR1-251 which preached that “everyone is essentially the same, regardless of race or background.” SF As he said, “What I write is people’s music.” RS500

That message was drilled home with the main line of the chorus: “I am everyday people,” a line sung by himself, his sister Rosie, his brother Freddie, and Larry Graham – echoing the idea that “each of them (and each listener as well) should consider himself or herself as parts of one whole.” WK

The song’s diverse appeal is echoed by the wide range of acts to cover the song: Belle & Sebastian, Jeff Buckley, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Peggy Lee, Dolly Parton, Billy Paul, Pearl Jam, the Staple Singers, the Supremes & Four Tops. In 1992, rap group Arrested Development had a top ten hit with an adapted version of the song called “People Everyday.” WK

Musically, the song featured what member Larry Graham said was the first use of the slap bass technique, in which the player slapped the strings with his thumb so that they collided with the frets, which became a staple of funk. WK/sup>

Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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