Dance to The Music | Sly Stone Documentary


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.

A different Dutch crew, film students Jeroen Berkvens and Walter Stokman had already set out to track down Sly Stone in 1992 , with no succes. Their film, “Let Me Have It All” can be seen on YouTube.

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 :

VPRO  3voor12 archiveson demand stream (The Family Stone starts @ approx. 33 min.)

Sly and The Family Stone at North Sea Jazz 2007  :

YouTube | part 1 | part 2 | part 3

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 :


Links :

Listen :

Stand! (Real)


9 Responses to “Dance to The Music | Sly Stone Documentary”

  1. beelzbubba Says:

    Thanks for this great post and all the links! What interested me most was how people from outside the U.S. can open American’s eyes to missing treasures. Most of us here who are old enough to remember Sly Stone from the 60s and 70s probably don’t think of him as missing as much as he lives in a place in our past.

    But we can see George Clinton often, and even Van Morrison comes up for air every once in a while. The question in my mind is why is Sly Stone so camera-averse now? Is it because he seemed to attract bad situations whenever he got massive attention and he fears it will happen again?

  2. nine Says:

    yeah, maybe he wanted to be forgotten hey? I think many people in the business were fed up with him in the end… his erratic behavior/disappearing act made it so easy to just forget about him…
    An outsider might find it harder to reconcile with this fate. I guess non US ‘fans’ especially funkophiles like the Dutch twinz ;) just look at him different from how he’s generally regarded in the US… i think it made a difference to Sly himself.

    Maybe that’s why he’s so seclusive… he just doesn’t want to explain? I think he fears the attention will be bad yeah… he fears his “comeback”…

    Thanks for your reply bubba! I hope youwill see “Dance to The Music” some day, it’s really fun.

  3. jrmiller Says:

    Every single time Sly and the Family Stone came to the tri-state area, I was there. One amazing summer, they were at the Apollo, Mount Morris Park and the Electric Circus all during one weekend. They were the most amazing group EVER. I would give anying to see them again, but If I never do,I have great memories of Sly with his AMAZING funk, fringes and fur boots….Cynthia R., Rosie S., Freddie S., Greg E., Larry G. and Jerry M. Sly you took us all Higher.
    JRMiller nyc

  4. Daniel Says:

    Since I first heard “Dance To The Music” playing on my radio back in 1968 (I was twelve at the time) I not only became an instant fan of Sly & The Family Stone, but as the years passed I became a devout fan of FUNK music…A funkaholic, if you will. At the present I am a 54 year old grandfather, who is just as much a FUNK fan as I was ‘way back when’. I am really looking forward to the documentary “Dance To The Music” being released for the real Sly Stone fans, because if you’ve been around as long as I have and have a true appreciation of the musical legacy that Sly dropped on the music industry (and the world) you know that there is just no such thing as too much Sly!

  5. Willem Says:

    The film has a new title: coming back for more, check www. for updates about filmfestivals and releases

  6. Jaz Says:

    I’d love to see this video. Where might I check to purchase the “Dance to the Music” Documentary? I hope to hear from you ASAP.

  7. Jack Streeter Says:

    Great stuff when… Sly leaves this earth we will begging to notice that he was here and was a great showman and musician…missing you in advance ..

  8. Very good article! We will be linking to this great article
    on our site. Keep up the great writing.

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