I Want to Take You Higher: The Life & Times of Sly & the Family Stone

January 01, 1970





It’s true. Brevity is pretty often the soul of wit. At the
very least, it’s a phantom limb. Take, for instance, David Kamp’s Vanity Fair story/interview on Sly Stone
last year. Like Roky Erickson and Brian Wilson before him, Stone was (is) the
last of the great ‘60s godfathers who, after long being lost in whatever-haze-he-found-himself,
is slowly being found; or finding himself; or getting well enough to perform.
The latter for rock audience purposes is the main thing. That said, Kamp’s tale
not only brought back the past (hits, Woodstock,
influence, clothing) and gave the recent past a flip-through (golden Mohawks at
2006’s Grammys), it allowed Stone a present and a future. Stone may have seemed
gently opaque. But that’s like saying Keith Richard seems wrinkled – just is.  


San Francisco
writer Jeff Kaliss had another 200-odd pages to fill than Kamp did and
benefited from not only great access to Stone but permission to mix it up. You
sense some tension in the conversations about old material vs. new material,
drugs and ladies, and the passage of time and the mention of friends gone and
lost. But Kaliss is a friendly writer who gently lances the touchstones, takes
on the classics, and, generally and genially, snags all who still live
within/around the Family Stone rubric (that is: mad genius in the modern age)
and gets them singing. Point is, I wanted Kaliss to take me a little higher with
more critical insight into Stone’s music and his mood. The length of Kaliss’
book merits/needs just a tad more density so to make it the necessary bible on
Sly. Then again, if Kaliss got this far – maybe he should consider a second
volume. A.D. AMOROSI


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