E book excerpt: Sly Stone’s memoir, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

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By Calvin S. Nelson



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Music legend Sly Stone, entrance man for the pop-rock-funk group Sly and the Household Stone, has crafted a memoir that encompasses each his revolutionary music of the late twentieth century and his addictions which took him out of the highlight for much too lengthy.

Taking its title from considered one of Sly’s hottest songs, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” (co-written with music journalist Ben Greenman and revealed October 17 by AUWA) is an account of the meteoric rise of considered one of music’s most revelatory and mysterious artists.

Learn an excerpt beneath, and do not miss Kelefa Sanneh’s report on Sly Stone on “CBS Information Sunday Morning” October 8!

“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly Stone

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Household Affair

Life is a file. However the place do you drop the needle? You may put it down close to the start, the place a younger boy in Northern California begins to find how a lot music strikes him. You may put it down slightly later, when he assembles a band, or slightly later than that, when the band seems onstage, first in entrance of small crowds in golf equipment, then in entrance of bigger crowds, together with one of many largest in historical past. These are good tracks.

Or you may play the flip aspect of this vivid and stirring story: the younger boy, now a younger man, going through the tough mild of fame; the younger man, now a star, making his manner by means of a home crowded with medication and weapons; the star, now letting his mild be crowded out by these medication and weapons.

Or is it higher to start out proper firstly? Discover the lead-in groove. That is the outer fringe of the file earlier than the primary track. Put the needle down there. Chances are you’ll hear some static. Pay shut consideration to it. It is providing you with an opportunity to prepare.

* * *

Within the story earlier than my story, there’s Denton, Texas, a small metropolis in a giant state, north of Dallas and Fort Value. Within the Twenties, F.L. Haynes, Fred to those that knew him, went to Denton to arrange the St. Andrew Church of God in Christ. The Church of God in Christ was a Pentecostal denomination with roots in Tennessee, only some a long time outdated at that time however gaining steam.

Fred’s household included two ladies named Alpha and Omega. In Fred’s church, Alpha met a person named Okay.C. Stewart. Alpha and Okay.C. married in 1933 and introduced a daughter, Loretta, into the world the next yr. For some time that was the household, the three of them. Then, on March 15, 1943, a fourth face appeared. That was Sylvester Stewart. That was me.

The road the place we lived in Denton is barely a reminiscence for me. A cemetery was to the east. What was to the west? All of us had been, quickly sufficient. A short time after I used to be born, we moved out to California. Denton went into the previous and the long run went into Vallejo, a metropolis about thirty miles northeast of San Francisco on San Pablo Bay.

For a minute within the 1850s, Vallejo had been the state capital earlier than Sacramento took over. Vallejo was a port, which meant that individuals had been all the time coming out and in. They weren’t simply getting off ships and getting on them. They had been additionally constructing them. There was a naval shipyard on Mare Island that wanted staff, and that grew the city. Once we arrived from Texas, Vallejo was in the course of a increase.

Increase! There we had been. Our first Vallejo deal with was 125 Denio Avenue. Again then it was just some children—me, Loretta, and the following sister down the road, Rose. My father, Okay.C., who we known as Massive Daddy, had a cleansing enterprise. My mom saved the home. I by no means met grandparents on both aspect, by no means acquired any of that spoiling. Once I was 4, slightly brother arrived, Frederick Jerome, who we known as Freddie. He bunked in my room, on the backside of my mattress. New faces wanted new areas. My dad put up one other home behind 125 Denio, at 127, and we moved there. And some years after that, a fifth baby, one other lady, confirmed up—that was Vaetta, who we known as Vet.

There have been seven of us, and the eighth member of the household was music. Even earlier than kids, my dad and mom performed. My father performed washboard, guitar, violin, fiddle, harmonica. My mom performed keyboards and guitar. Music was as a lot part of our residence because the partitions or the ground. The piano was as outstanding because the kitchen desk. All of us sang from as early as I can keep in mind, and the primary songs we realized had been gospel songs by Mahalia Jackson, Brother Joe Could, the Soul Stirrers, the Swan Silvertones. We constructed our future in heaven. We dug slightly deeper. We put our belief in Him.

We sang at residence after which we sang in church. All of us sang collectively however typically considered one of us would get a solo. I used to be put in entrance of the congregation to carry out after I was solely 5 or 6. My mom stated that I actually got here alive in entrance of a crowd. Greater than that: In the event that they did not reply I might cry. As soon as, I used to be up there, singing, feeding off the viewers, listening to their shouts and applause, when items of the gang broke off and girls began working down the aisle, holding on to their hats, nonetheless shouting. Now I see that they had been feeling the spirit within the track calling them towards the stage. Again then, I assumed they had been coming to seize me. I rotated, jumped off the desk, and began working for my life.

I ended working. I got here again for the music. From the time I used to be very small I might inform that I used to be deeper into it than most as a result of I used to be so usually with an instrument. It might need been drumsticks first, after which I used to be out on the road with my mom and noticed a person taking part in guitar. I requested her for one. She despatched my father out the following day with directions to not return empty-handed.

Studying was trying. There was a man within the church who performed guitar. What he did with it was wonderful, six strings and an infinity of issues. I watched him like a hawk. He wasn’t a mentor. I do not even know if I spoke to him. I simply noticed what he did and tried to determine learn how to do the identical and extra. Guitar stayed with me, however I used to be all the time seeking to no matter was subsequent, taking over the bass, choosing out songs on the piano. I felt incomplete with out an instrument, or perhaps it is extra to the purpose to say that I solely felt full with one. Once I went out into the world, I used to be stunned to see individuals who weren’t carrying devices. I wasn’t positive what they did as a substitute.

Excerpted from “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly Stone, with Ben Greenman. Printed by AUWA Books, October 2023. Copyright © 2023 by Sylvester Stewart. All rights reserved. 

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“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” by Sly Stone

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