Don’t hate the black
Don’t hate the white
If you get bitten
Just hate the bite.
That’s how Sly Stone introduces a medley in the video of his 1968 TV appearance below. His group, Sly and the Family Stone, was an early musical crossover band, black and white, male and female, rock and soul. Their music expressed a joy that transcended boundaries and included all.
They say that if you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t there, and drugs took an awful eventual toll on Sly and the Family Stone. But I was only an occasional marijuana user and never (believe it or not) took a psychedelic drug, even though I lived in Philadelphia’s counterculture center. My neurons have not lost their paths back to that seminal decade. So when I read the New York Times online every morning, the obituary page often brings sorry and joy — sorrow over a death, joy about a revived memory.
Today I read of Cynthia Robinson’s death at 71 of cancer, the band’s trumpet player. She succeeded in two male-dominated fields: trumpet and rock music.
Sly and the Family Stone was formed in 1967, and here’s how Robinson described one of the early rehearsals:
We hit that first note, and it was like the Fourth of July — I just saw sparks and lights and my body just went totally nuts. I couldn’t play anymore — it was magnificent. I’d never heard a sound that great.
Cynthia’s voice is not often heard in the music of Sly and the Family Stone, but it lives on in the shout that exhorts us to Dance to the Music.
Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine