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MUCH BETTER, SLY!

David Kamp writes...

The video above makes me happy and provides some relief. I was getting grim reports from Europe about Sly Stone’s tour there with his sister Vet’s band–that he wasn’t onstage enough, and that he didn’t sound good when he was onstage. Forget journalistic objectivity–I’m rooting for this guy to get it together and enjoy a happy coda to his life as a musician.

In my media appearances to discuss my story on Sly for Vanity Fair, I’ve noted that he was in good voice at his Vegas show in March. He looked stooped and all of his 64 years, and he only played for about half an hour, but he showed authentic promise and really seemed to enjoy himself onstage as he grew more comfortable there. I’ve also cautioned people that the comeback trail is seldom smooth. It’s easy to forget now, but Brian Wilson and Roky Erickson had long, protracted comeback periods, with many false starts and missteps, before they became the strong public performers they are now.

Still, it sounded like that Vegas promise wasn’t being fulfilled in Europe, especially according to this utterly depressing account of Sly’s Italy performance, written by musician and Rock Snob extraordinaire Sean O’Hagan. (UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post, I assumed the O’Hagan writing was the same one who leads the British band the High Llamas, which has its own entry in The Rock Snob*s Dictionary. The O’Hagan of the UK’s Guardian is indeed a Rock Snob extraordinaire, but he is an entirely different Sean O’Hagan. Sorry about that.)

So it delights me that Sly sounded good at his Netherlands show, from which this clip comes. Check out his grinning performances of “If You Want Me to Stay,” “Sing a Simple Song,”* and “I Want to Take You Higher.” Nice Mardi Gras beads, too, sir!

(Thanks to Idolator for the heads-up on the clip.)

* During this song, there’s a sweet exchange of grins and good-natured pointing between Sly and his niece, Lisa, when he comes in too early on the second verse, stepping on her line.

July 17, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »

A PHAX FROM SLY STONE

David Kamp writes...

As my story on Sly Stone for Vanity Fair was going to press, really late in the game, Sly’s sister Vet called to tell me that her brother wanted to send me a statement “about what’s going on now, about the war.” I was told to expect a fax. And the following morning, upon arising, I found this extraordinary document waiting in the machine. I could only fit a small snippet of it into the article, but it’s such a fascinating, free-associative note–encompassing current events, his take on my persistent pursuit of an interview with him, his own fears of being portrayed in a bad light, some borderline Borscht Belt humor, and a playful (?) threat–that I thought you’d enjoy reading it. And trying to parse it.

By the way, his sister says he liked the story.

Sly 1.JPG

Sly 2.JPG

July 12, 2007 More Rock Snobbery »

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