In a Nutshell
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls Sly and the Family Stone "the funky pied pipers of the Woodstock generation." The 1968 hit "Everyday People" was their anthem, not so much a call to arms as a call to link
arms. With lines like "…different strokes for different folks / And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee," it's a little hard not to wonder how something this cheesy could be such a big hit. To understand "Everyday People," Shmoop had to look beyond Smarties commercials
and even beyond Woodstock
to the history of—and this might surprise you—Sesame Street. Read on to find out just how connected all these things really are.
About the Song
|Artist||Sly and the Family Stone
||Musician(s)||Sly Stone (vocals), Rose Stone (lead and background vocals, piano), Freddie Stone (background vocals, guitar), Larry Graham (background vocals, bass), Vet Stewart, Mary McCreary and Elva Mouton as "Little Sister" (background vocals), Greg Errico (drums), Jerry Martini (tenor saxophone), Cynthia Robinson (trumpet)
|Year||1968 (Single; B-side "Sing a Simple Song"); 1969 (album)|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Listening in 2011, Sly and the Family Stone's happiest, funkiest, and most popular song can sound a little bit like a series of slogans for a multicultural fair, or like a kind of odd Smarties commercial
from 2008. (People are diverse, and so are the colors of all the different Smarties flavors! Or something…)
To understand the song, we have to look back to 1968 and 1969. After all, these were the days of Civil Rights
and Flower Power
. People loved songs like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
and "Say It Loud, I'm Black and Proud."
But the Beatles were still a band that mostly served to bring rock 'n' roll
's appeal to white teens, and James Brown was still "black music" that was hard to sell to white audiences (who tended to fear the messages of the Black Power Movement
). For all the rhetoric spinning around the hippie generation, genuine multiculturalism was rare.
Sly and the Family Stone, a band of hippie stoners from the Bay Area with an incredibly funky new sound, blended races, genders, and musical genres onstage, living the dream that "Everyday People" was about. It became the signature song for that idealistic era—and the seemingly corny nature of the song can actually tell us a lot about some of the parts of that history that we might take for granted more than four decades later.
On the Charts
"Everyday People" peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard R&B charts. It was the band's first number one single
went up to #13 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and #3 on the R&B Albums chart in 1969.
Sly and the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 2004, Rolling Stone put "Everyday People" at on its listing of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
also ranked #113 on Rolling Stone's 2003 listing of the 500 Greatest Albums.Sly Stone is #78
on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.