Sly And The Family Stone's Freddie Stone

On this day in 1946, Fred Stewart was born in Dallas. Stewart,

who became famous as Freddie Stone, was the guitarist for the

groundbreaking Sly and the Family Stone, the funk band that crossed all

sorts of musical and cultural boundaries.

Led by Fred's brother -- songwriter, singer and instrumentalist Sly Stone -- the

Family Stone were one of the first acts to combine blacks, whites, men and

women into one musical group. The band was also one of the first acts to blend

heavy soul, pop and psychedelic rock into mainstream hits. In addition, Sly and

the Family Stone broke from tradition by including sociopolitical commentary

with soul music.

Sly and Fred played in their family's group, the Stewart Four, as

children. After the family moved from Texas to San Francisco, they

began playing in several Bay Area groups. Sly also worked as a DJ and

became a producer for Autumn Records, where he worked with pre-psychedelic

bands such as the Beau Brummels and the Great Society.

Sly formed the Stoners with trumpeter Cynthia Robinson in 1966. The next

year, Sly and

Robinson formed Sly and the Family Stone, with Fred, their sister Rosemary

Stone on vocals and piano, their cousin Larry Graham on bass guitar, drummer

Greg Errico and sax player Jerry Martini. The group's multi-racial composition

brought them immediate

attention and Sly and the Family Stone were signed by Epic Records.

Their debut album, A Whole New Thing, was released shortly after and

flopped. But 1968's Dance To The Music spawned the top-10 title track.

The 1969 double-sided single "Everyday People" and "Sing A Simple Song"

was a #1 smash and

sent the band on its way to the top. The album it was drawn from, Stand,

made the top 20 on the pop chart and also included the hit "I Want To Take You

Higher." All of these melodic, horn-based, rhythmic tunes earned the band a

legion of fans. But it was Sly and the Family Stone's appearance on the

Woodstock soundtrack album that

solidified their reputation as one of the tightest performing acts of

the decade.

Two more smash singles -- the #2 "Hot Fun In The Summertime"

and the #1 "Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin" -- followed, and both

were included on Greatest Hits, which went to #2 on Billboard's

pop albums chart. At this point, Sly and the Family Stone were at the

zenith of their career and were ubiquitous on the radio. But after

1970, Sly's drug problems got out of control and he began missing gigs.

In 1971, There's A Riot Goin' On hit #1 and produced the smash

"Family Affair," but the band's music had turned from happy grooves into

militant funk. Though the album was a big influence on the rest of the

decade's funk music, the Family Stone lost some of their pop audience with

their radical images and messages.

Some of the original members

of the group departed in 1972. The next year's Fresh was Sly and the

Family Stone's last big hit album. As disco began to dominate the R&B

landscape, Sly was too hooked on cocaine to compose any worthwhile

material for the Family Stone. After a drug arrest, the band's output

slowed and Epic dropped them.

In 1979, Sly and the Family Stone released

an album of new material, Back On The Right Track, on Warner

Bros. The album was a poor-seller, but the band toured with George

Clinton and Funkadelic. After another even less successful album, Sly

retreated further into drug addiction and was rarely heard from except

for his entering various rehabilitation facilities.

Sly and the Family

Stone were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, but

shortly after, Sly was reportedly living in a homeless shelter. In

1995, Sly signed to Avenue Records, but an album has not yet been

issued.

With Sly out of commission for all practical purposes, Freddie

is performing and preaching as the pastor of a Vallejo, Calif.,

church. Sly and the Family Stone remain a major influence on today's funk

artists, most notably The Artist, who has based many of his bands --

including the Revolution and the New Power Generation -- on the Family

Stone's music.

Other birthdays: Laurie Anderson, 51; Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden), 44; Richard

Butler

(Psychedelic Furs/Love Spit Love), 42; Kenny G, 42 ... Tom Evans

(Badfinger), 1947-1983.