E is for Everyday People

With this song, Sly Stone makes a plea for peace and equality between differing races and social groups, and this became a major theme and focus for the band Sly and the Family Stone.  Sly & the Family Stone included a mash-up of musical styles, and the band members were made up of different genders and diverse ethnic backgrounds, which was a groundbreaking move for a pop music act at this time.  Their music ranged from Motown to jazz, rock, and folk which went on to be called psychedelic funk and their 1968 single ‘Everyday People’, struck a chord with the hippie crowd of the late 60s, following the Sumer of Love.  Regardless of race or background everyone is essentially the same, as we all belong to the human race and at this time in history, these thoughts were unprecedented.

Sly Stone was born in Texas as Sylvester Stewart, and his siblings grew up in Vallejo, California, which was just outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.  In the Bay Area, the Stewarts hung out with kids of other races, but they were the first generation in their family to be able to do so.  And still, whenever Sly went out with a white girl in high school, he had to send a light-skinned envoy to pick the girl up in his car because the parents would never allow their daughter to go off in a car with a Black teenager.  When rock and roll emerged in the 1950s, mostly due from the efforts and collaborations of Blacks and Whites enjoying the same music together, most bands and their audiences were still segregated.  In the late 50s there was “Black music” and “White music”, and

when the Flamingos came to Birmingham, Alabama because they were black performers, they were told not to make eye contact with anyone who was not a black fan, and these blacks were confined to the balcony, while the whites were out on the floor.  They were told by the cops, “We don’t want to see any of you darkies looking at the white women out there.”

In the era of Elvis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, a curious thing started to happen at rock & roll shows, as racial barriers began to break down, became the audiences became boisterously biracial, and it became impossible for officials to fully segregate them.  White and Black musicians contributed to desegregation and some people started paying attention when the Beatles refused to play segregated venues on their 1965 U.S. tour.  Thirteen years into the civil rights movement, which started in 1954 with the Supreme Court decision on the Brown v. Board of Education issue of segregation in public schools, Sly and the Family Stone arrived on the scene and it seemed like all this hatred might just be going to change and in 1967 when Sly wrote this song, it was hoped that people might actually be ready for equality.

In the mid-1960s, 20-something Sly had already left college to become a popular radio DJ and a pretty high-profile music producer in the Bay Area.  He’d always stood out for his glittery personality and humorous intensity, and what he really wanted was to be a star.  He pulled together a group of his friends and siblings with a vision of creating new, groovy music that combined various influences of the time, especially the psychedelic rock moods of the Bay Area.  Sly and the Family Stone were decked out in huge afros, bell-bottoms, and glittery vests, they became the perfect apparition for a fervent crowd of peace-and-harmony-loving hippies.  This group actually looked like the ideals that were held dear by their fans, that being black and white, male and female could stand side by side on the stage, arrayed in fantastic fashions and hairdos, while they were rallying the crowd to get higher like they did at Woodstock with their song ‘I Want to Take You Higher’.

Declaring that, “Different strokes for different folks” was acceptable, managed to capture a mood among the new young, white American rock crowd and these words also reached a vast crossover audience.  In these times pop music was for White people, and this funk stuff was Black music, however Sly Stone was surprising everyone by combining both styles together and all the while he maintained a clear Black identity.  Sly Stone was a true visionary, but his vision of equality never materialized and that is why we still have the Black Lives Matter campaign going on and there are even claims of bigotry in the Royal family.

This song may have been inspired from Mother Goose rhyme Three Men in a Tub, but Sly changed the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker to become the butcher, the banker, the drummer, and to stay in the spirit of the song’s message of solidarity among all people, Sly added, “makes no difference what group I’m in.”  Three years earlier, Frank Sinatra sang “doo-be-doobie-do” on his hit song ‘Strangers in the Night’ and that’s where the Hanna-Barbera animated talking Great Dane got his name.  Sly made use of this meaningless rhyming slang, which may have originally been derived from the baby talk phrase “gitchee, gitchee goo”.  This phrase seems like it never goes out of style as in the 1978 Rolling Stones song ‘Shattered’ they sing, “(shattered, sha ooobie shattered)’.

‘Everyday People’ remains the group’s pinnacle of that era, looking at dissension and division and by trying to cast a line that would keep things together, this flamboyantly utopian anthem asked everyone to forge unity through difference.  The song was released on the Sly and the Family Stone Stand! album in 1969, their fourth studio album released just before Woodstock.  Songfacts® says that Billy Preston played organ on this, but he is not credited on the album.  ‘Everyday People’ charted #1 in the US and made it to #36 in the UK.  Sly Stone was a very talented musician and besides writing songs, he sang and played organ, guitar, piano, harmonica, vocoder and bass guitar.  His sister Rose Stone sang vocals, and played piano, and keyboards.  His brother Freddie Stone sang vocals and played guitar.  Larry Graham sang and played bass guitar and Greg Errico was on drums, Cynthia Robinson played trumpet, Jerry Martini was on saxophone and Little Sister made up of (Vet Stone, Mary McCreary, Elva Mouton) sang background vocals.

In 2011, Sly Stone entered rehab to seek treatment for drug addiction and that is when he revealed that he was living out of a van in the LA neighborhood Crenshaw.  He filed a lawsuit in 2010 against his attorneys and former manager saying that they forced him to sign a lot of complicated contracts he could never understand, which allowed them steal money from him.  The case was settled in 2015 and Sly was awarded $5 million in reparations, but the court decision was overturned and he never got the money.  Sly and the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah yeah

There is a blue one who can’t accept
The green one for living with
A fat one tryin’ to be a skinny one
Different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby

Ooh sha sha
We got to live together

I am no better and neither are you
We’re all the same whatever we do
You love me you hate me
You know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people

There is a long hair
That doesn’t like the short hair
For being such a rich one
That will not help the poor one
Different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on scooby dooby dooby

Ooh sha sha
We got to live together

There is a yellow one that won’t
Accept the black one
That won’t accept the red one
That won’t accept the white one

Different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and
Scooby dooby dooby
Ooh sha sha
I am everyday people

18 thoughts on “E is for Everyday People

  1. Never knew all of that about him…I knew about the law suit…it’s sad. I can’t believe he is alive after what he put himself through.

    Liked by 1 person

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