Miles Davis once groused that in big Bill Graham-type rock shows in the late 60’s and early 70’s, that he was only making $10k per appearance and not the $50k that Sly and the Family Stone were getting. Davis also once said that Sly Stone “was my only peer.” This was during the Betty Mabry days when Miles was making funk/pop records, to the dismay of his older fans who didn’t like his albums after the famous quintet of the 1960’s broke up in 1968 with its final album, Filles de Kilimanjaro.
Miles liked making money and living a charmed life: Ferraris, Lamborghinis, fancy threads. Sly Stone’s fortunes, however, went in the other direction, from living in a 5,000 square foot mansion in Bel Air to living for years in an RV and barely making ends meet. I thought of Miles and Sly because an old February 2015 news story about Sly, now in his 70’s, has re-surfaced recently on Facebook: he was awarded $5 million in unpaid royalties, based on onerous contracts he once signed but never really understood. However, the most recent update I’ve read on the case from December 2015 indicates that the judgment had been reversed, and Stone might not be getting his payout after all. No matter how the lawsuit turns out in the end, I just hope that Sly will able to spend his later years in more comfortable circumstances…even if it’s not driving a Ferrari around like Miles did.
Sly’s megahits like “Dance to the Music,” “Family Affair,” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” sold millions of records. “Hot Fun in the Summertime” is getting a lot of airplay now too, as it always does this time of year. And “Everyday People” is still a great anthem for our times: