Friday, February 15, 2019

50 years ago: “Everyday People” hit #1

Updated 3/18/2021.

Everyday People

Sly & the Family Stone

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


First Charted: November 30, 1968


Peak: 14 US, 12 CB, 11 HR, 12 RB, 1 CL, 36 UK, 2 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 7.1 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

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

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 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 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 He found a wide audience with “Everyday People,” a song with a “gospel message of brotherhood, couched in dance funk” BR1 which preached that “everyone is essentially the same, regardless of race or background.” SF It is “one of the most beguiling and literate songs about racial harmony.” CR 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:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Sly & the Family Stone
  • DMDB page for parent album Stand!
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 251.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 532.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (2003). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

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