When Sly and The Family Stone Band made history for its lineup in the 1960s

It started in San Francisco. But, the Sly and The Family Stone band was the first major band that integrated both white and black musicians all performing and singing on one stage. The band was acclaimed for laying the early foundations for street funk, soul and disco music in the 1970s.

The leader of the group, Sylvester Stewart, grew up in a church-going family in Vallejo and that was where he nurtured his early love for music, according to Britannica Encyclopedia. While in the Bay Area music industry, he worked with Autumn Records where they produced national pop hits for Bobby Freeman in 1964 and Beau Brummels in 1965.  

He was one of the top soul music deejays and built his brand around the name Sly Stone. He established the Family Stone in 1967. He called it Sly and The Stoners and brought in his brother’s band Freddie & The Stone Souls to become Sly and The Family Stone.

The group was made up of his brother Freddie who was behind the guitar; younger sister, Rose, who was on the piano; trumpeter Robinson; saxophonist Martini; drummer Errico, and bassist Graham. The uniqueness of the band was that the musicians were black and white at a time when racial discrimination and social injustice were at their peak.

The band garnered a massive following in and around the Bay Area with their funky dance and grooves. In the wake of that success, they had to endure racism at many of the places they went and performed. They stood their ground by preaching peace and empowering women.

They also took notice of the advocacy campaigns of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and endured the burden of his assassination in Memphis, taking all the confusion in stride. In an interview with KCRW in 2009, Stewart admitted the pressure he came under having to carry a mixed race and gender band on his shoulder. The Black Panthers pushed him to sack the white members of his band.

But, he stood his ground and ensured that the group got the necessary hits to keep them relevant. Stewart was always known for standing out for others and that was what Sly and The Family Stone band was about. Stewart preached the need for members to always stand up for what they believed in and their music carried themes like that. The band was known for hits like “Everyday People”, “Sing A Simple”, “I Want Take You Higher”, and “Family Affair”.

The group was disbanded in the late 1970s after leaving a legacy of beautiful and meaningful music.

Stephen Nartey

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