Dance to The Music | Sly Stone Documentary
December 6th, Dutch broadcasting network NPS premiered the documentary “Dance To The Music“, a search for funk legend Sly Stone. Sly Stone has been one of music’s great recluses for some 20-odd years… he vanished into rumor in the 1980s.
Sly and the Family Stone were pioneers of psychedelic soul-funk. The group formed in San Francisco, California, USA, in 1967, and disbanded in 1975. The Family Stone was comprised of men and women, and blacks and whites, making the band one of the first fully integrated groups in history. Their music was joyous, but as the ’60s ended, so did the good times…
The album “Dance To The Music“, generated a Top Ten pop and R&B hit with its title track early in 1968. “Everyday People“, released late in 1968 rocketed to the top of the pop and R&B charts and set the stage for the breakthrough success of 1969’s “Stand!“. The Family Stone quickly became known as one of the best live bands, and their performance at Woodstock was widely hailed as one of the festival’s best.
“There was probably no more Woodstockian moment at Woodstock than when he and the Family Stone, his multi-racial, four-man, two-woman band, took control of the festival in the wee hours of August 17, 1969, getting upwards of 400,000 people pulsing in unison to an extended version of “I Want to Take You Higher.” For one early morning, at least, the idea of “getting higher” wasn’t an empty pop-culture construct or a stoner joke, but a matter of transcendence. This man had power.”
The story of Sly Stone began with enormous promise and, subsequently, proceeded along a rocky road that would see this hugely gifted singer/songwriter forced into musical retirement by a common Twentieth Century malaise…
Stone became disillusioned with the ideals he had been preaching in his music, becoming addicted to a variety of drugs in the process. He was jailed for possession of cocaine in 1987 and ended the decade fighting further extradition charges. There was little of any note heard of Sly Stone in the 90’s.
When the family Stone was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 (the ceremony was presented by George Clinton), Sly slipped in and out of without saying much, unannounced. There were a series of weird resurfacings, like Stone’s appearance at the 2006 Grammy Awards, where he performed a mere snippet of “I Want to Take You Higher” with some guest musicians paying him tribute.
Sly Stone, remains elusive. His life-affirming songs timeless. Many people tried and failed to find him for a dozen years. His disappearance from public life has become a fascinating subject in and of itself.
In 2005 Willem Alkema (Dwars! Produkties) got struck by the same fascination and set out to LA, to try his luck in the search. With the help of local policeman Peter Coogan, Willem manages to come up with an address, but it doesn’t bring him any closer to actually interviewing or talking to Sly.
In his quest Willem teams up with the twin brothers Arno and Edwin Konings, who have been working hard on a Sly Stone biography since 2002 (the book is expected early 2010). Eventually with help from them, Sly’s sister and an old drum machine, Willem and ‘Da Funk Twinz’ succeed in meeting up with Sly in person, in a Disneyland hotel room, without cameras.
In the end of the documentary Willem Alkema returns to see Sly perform at the Noth Sea Jazz festival 2007 (NL). He asks for an interview but is not permitted one. At the end of the show, he does get one question, on camera…
He asks Sly : “How do you feel, being back on stage?”
Sly answers: “Five feet taller than I usually am…”
It’s actually Sly’s first “interview” in 13 years…
Watch the first 2 minutes of “Dance to The Music”
There’s still music in Sly Stone, in 2008 Willem Alkema received a new song from Sly which is played in the movie…
“Dance To The Music” will be touring theatres across The Netherlands around October 2009. There are plans for an international release and a 90 min. DVD with extra materials.
Sly and the Family Stone Live at VPRO’s Piknik 1970 :
Sly and The Family Stone at North Sea Jazz 2007 :
Arno & Edwin Konings’ book “Thank You, The Story of Sly and The Family Stone” :
“Let Me have It All” , a 1992 documentary by Jeroen Berkvens and Walter Stokman :