Monday, November 1, 2010

"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)": Sly & The Family Stone's Groundbreaking Funk Classic

During the latter part of 1969, Sly & The Family Stone were still basking in the heady afterglow of their legendary performance at Woodstock earlier that summer. The band needed an encore after such a huge career peak, something that would be just as powerful and mind-blowing. With that, bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Sly Stone got to work on what would be one of the band's most daring and groundbreaking records.

"Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" hit the airwaves like a volcanic eruption in December of 1969. I was ten, and hearing the song for the first time had a profound effect on me. To my young ears, the song sounded unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was innovative and fresh, sounding light years ahead of most of the other records being played on the radio at the time. The first thing that grabbed my attention was Larry Graham's preternaturally funky slap-and-pop bass line. At the time, I wasn't sure what instrument was being played. I had never heard a bass line played in such an aggressive and percussive fashion. All I knew is that it sounded incredible. Following "Thank You," legions of bass players, particularly in funk and R&B music, started slapping and popping.

"Thank You" is an amazing musical achievement. It is a brilliantly crafted mosaic of interlocking guitar rhythms, tight horn lines, a thunderous backbeat and an infectiously sanctified chorus. Also, Sly demonstrated his gifts as a lyricist; his hip, poetic lyrics reflect on his inner struggle to maintain his identity in the wake of rock superstardom and all the temptations that come with it.

This song is a great example of the band's ability to create music that is at once inventive and immediately accessible. And it is considered one of the most influential funk records of all time.

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