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Monday, October 27, 2008

Thank You (For Writin’ This Book)

posted by on October 27 at 14:13 PM

Composing a biography of the notoriously elusive and reclusive Sly Stone has to be one of the most difficult tasks a scribe can tackle. But Jeff Kaliss managed to get face time with the soul/funk/rock legend who composed a couple of dozen songs that penetrated the charts with incomparable dynamics, fascinating rhythms, and indelible melodies. Kaliss’ I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & the Family Stone is about as comprehensive a look at one of the most talented and tragic figures in popular music. (I’m 60 pages into it right now, but hope to have a full review completed soon.)

Kaliss put in a lot of legwork for this bio, interviewing record-biz figures, band members from the Family Stone and the Viscaynes (Sly’s pre-Family Stone outfit), and documenting the early years of Sylvester Stewart’s life and his family lineage.

Rich Freedman of the Bay Area-based Times-Herald interviewed Kaliss, and the following passage surprised, with its J.D. Salinger-like sense of a genius working in seclusion, generating great quantities of work that nobody’s seen or heard for decades.

Sly continues to write and, eventually, produce and perform, Kaliss said, adding that the Grammy winner has “loads” of music left in him.

“He keeps doing it. He stays up to 3, 4 in the morning just writing,” Kaliss said. “He’s been doing that all along. But we haven’t gotten to hear much of it yet. Even when he’s stayed hidden, he’s kept going.”

One has to wonder: Wouldn’t a label kill to release some new Sly Stone material? Or why doesn’t Sly release it himself? Or have Prince do the honors? Could it be that… this new music isn’t very good? Hmmm…

Now please enjoy one of the greatest pieces of music ever conceived. “Stand” possesses one of the most satisfying, gradual builds in pop-music history and the final minute of it represents the most electrifying, despair-obliterating coda ever.

RSS icon Comments


Well said, all 'round. I can never get enough Sly. Author/lecturer Joe Schloss delivered a fine paper at EMP a couple of years ago ("Sunday Morning I Forgot My Prayer") about how Sly has spent the '00s hiding in plain sight.

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | October 27, 2008 9:48 PM

Is this book written by the same guy who did that excellent long piece in MOJO a few years back?

Posted by Tiktok | October 28, 2008 7:20 AM

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