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10.16-SING A SIMPLE SONG (Sly & the Family Stone)

Sly & the Family Stone

LISTEN

[Intro]

Sing a simple song!
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc.)

I'm talkin' talkin' talkin' talkin' talkin' in my sleep.
I'm walkin' walkin' walkin' walkin' walkin' in the street.
Time is passing; I grow older; things are happening fast.
All I have to hold onto is a simple song at last.

Let me hear you say
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc.)(2x)

     Sing a simple song!
     Try a little do re me fa so la ti do…(3x)

(Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc.)

I'm livin' livin' livin' life with all its ups and downs.
I'm givin' givin' givin' love and smilin' at the frowns.
You're in trouble when you find it's hard for you to smile.
A simple song might make it better for a little while.

Let me hear you say
(Yeah, yeah. yeah, etc.) (2x)

          [Break]

[Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc.]

I'm talkin' talkin' talkin' talkin'
I'm walkin' walkin' walkin' walkin
I'm livin' livin' livin' love
I'm livin' lovin' know about lovin'

Everybody sing together
(Yeah, yeah. yeah, etc.) (2x)
Sing it in the shower
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc.)
Sing it every hour
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc.) (4x)

I’m talkin’ I’m walkin’…
[Okay, now.]


I realize that the only excuse I have for including Sing a Simple Song among psychedelic masterworks is the intro, which swells upon ear in a weave of electric guitar and voices until it bursts into Cynthia Robinson’s commanding voice proclaiming the song’s title. After this, the beat is driven by a bass line that stays more or less in a funk mode similar to James Brown’s Cold Sweat, and psychedelia is left behind. On top of this funky riff, however, Sly & the Family Stone have passed the vocals around among them. Before Sly & the Family Stone, most Soul and R&B artists, as well as rock groups tended to have a lead singer and a supporting group of vocalists that served to provide harmony to the main melody, though different singers in a group might be featured in different songs. Sly Stone had introduced the public to this new vocal technique of passing the singing around with Dance to the Music, released in January 1968, which reached the #8 position on the Billboard singles chart. The style represented individuality and equality in an interracial group comprised of men and women. But further attempts to capture the general public’s attention through the development of this style failed throughout the remainder of the year to chart well. It wasn’t until Everyday People was released that Sly & the Family Stone were re-assessed as being more than a novelty group, and the hippies “got it”. The song rose to the top of the charts. Sing a Simple Song, though rarely requested on the radio, was the B side to Everyday People.

Sly Stone’s talent for idealistic yet simple lyrics, his attempted propaganda for the good of the masses, was similar to John Lennon’s aesthetic as the Beatle evolved from All You Need is Love to Imagine. Sly Stone tried to preach love without pretensions of self-righteousness or intellectual weight. The last thing Sly & the Family Stone wanted to be was “heavy”. The group was “freaky”, and its vocal style provided the basis (along with James Brown’s interlocking syncopation) for George Clinton’s P-funk through the next decade. Sly Stone’s attitude would darken, and his optimism sour within a couple of years. His own star faded after the release of the the chart topping song Family Affair and album There's a Riot Goin' On in November 1971. But he has continued to be a strong influence in the development of pop music. In the same month as the release of Sing a Simple Song the Temptations assumed and began to develop Sly & the Family Stone’s vocal technique in order to successfully translate themselves from an R&B group into purveyors of “psychedelic soul”.

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