Soul-Patrol Newsletter Headlines:
* Open Letter to Sly Stone
* Concert Review #1 - Sly & the Family Stone(?) @ BB Kings in NYC (11/20/2007)
* Concert Review #2 - Sly & the Family Stone(?) @ BB Kings in NYC (11/20/2007)
* Commentary - Jill Newman: The real culprit behind the Sly fiasco
Welcome To The Soul-Patrol Newsletter
I want to direct your attention to a piece that I wrote back in 1999, entitled:
HEY BROTHA, HOW COME YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING UP IN THIS FUNKY JOINT ABOUT SLY STONE?
I originally wrote this back in 1999, long before I had any personal contact with anyone in the Stewart family. I wrote this long before I had any personal insight whatsoever into the man called Sylvester Stewart. It was written in response to a site visitor (which is where the subject line of this message comes from) who wanted to know just why we didn't have anything up on the Soul-Patrol.com site about Sly Stone.
Of course since that time, I have enjoyed a very close relationship with the Stewart family and have in fact become a member of their extended family. I have interviewed them all (including Mother Stewart, except Sylvester Stewart.) And I have come to understand the family dynamics involved.
I have documented much of this, over the past few years, in words, pictures and audio at the following link: http://www.soul-patrol.com/funk/sly.htm
They have a very sick family member, one that the rest of the world gave up for dead a very long time ago, one whose very life is in the balance. And their mission has not a thing to do with the music industry at this point. It has to do with fulfilling a promise made to Mother Stewart, on her deathbed a few years ago, to try to save the life of her son, Sylvester Stewart.
It has everything to do with restoring the sanity and health of one of their family members. Their family dynamics are no different than the ones in your family or mine. When one of our family members is sick or in need of our help, we do what we can to try to help them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. The only difference between our own families and the Stewart family's crisis, is that theirs get played out in front of the public eye.
The recent events at BB King's in NYC have proved to be a disruption in the effort to try and save the life of Sylvester Stewart.
Several times over the past 4-5 months I have gone back and read this piece that I wrote with a tear in my eye. That's because history was repeating itself once again, only this time right in front of my eyes. Once after reading it again, I had a conversation with a friend this past summer, and I said; "Why can't he just put out a new album of new music, he can't do anything but hurt his own legacy by doing live shows..."
Today as I sit here, I have much love in my heart for Sylvester Stewart and I hope that someday, he can manage to find his way back into the human race.
However, right at this moment, I detest the character known as "Sly Stone" because of what went down at BB Kings and because of the way that longtime Sly and the Family Stone fans, seemed to have been misled, in the quest for "easy money."
I'm certain that more will be forthcoming, but for now, read on...
Thanks in advance...
Open Letter to Sly Stone
The first thing that I want you all to know is that I did not write what you are about to read.
It comes to me from within the Stewart family camp.
My hope is that you will read it carefully. It confirms much of what many of you have been whispering to me, since the Sly Stone disaster at BB Kings in NYC on Tuesday November 20th.
Hopefully Sylvester Stewart will read this and absorb what is being said about him from inside of the Stewart family camp.
--Bob Davis (11/25/2007)
Way more than most of you know. After she has spent 6+ years of her life, blood, sweat, and tears to do all that was necessary for her brother (Sly Stone) to be able to make his comeback, rumor has it that he is trying to get his original band back together. On the surface, that might sound okay, but how do you forsake all that you know is right and just kick your own sister to the curb? How do you choose known slime over your sister who kept you safe? How do you willingly believe those lying about your sister, when it was your sister who made sure people kept their mouths off you?
How do you allow people to be around you that you know tried to kill your sister? How is that alright?
I mean, Lil' Sister is the only reason why anybody wanted to hear from Sly Stone again, at all. Her Buddy, Skyler Jett was there all the way and only had great things to say about Sly Stone. There would have been no rebirth of the Band to inspire you, had it not been for Vette and Skyler. I have personally watched them and the endless work they did to get this project off the ground! They did what everybody told them couldn't be done. Lil' Sister reintroduced Sly Stone to the world and to this generation. Lil' Sister invited Sly to accompany the Family Stone on their European Tour. Sly Stone is the reason why so many on the behind-the-scenes side of the business and promoters don't ever want to work with him again.
Agents and Promoters are using what's left of you up and they're going to take you for all you're worth---which is not much 'cause you lost your morals and values! Look around Man; can't you see it's not the same? This is not the 60's or the 70's anymore. Now we know what happened to the Funkiest Trio there's ever been---Lil' Sister.
Sly, you are a total contradiction to everything you've sung about. That foreign substance in your body has taken over your intelligent judgment and your clear thinking mental faculties. Where is the Family? Where is Lil' Sister? We want the REAL FAMILY! All the rest of this is fake! Those who matter made the distinction during and after the European Tour between The Family Stone and Sly Stone. They all loved the Family Stone immensely. The same certainly cannot be said about Sly. Sly, you started out singing about truth and honesty and bringing people together. Now you're doing the opposite, what's up Man? Is the end of this story really all a lie? Be the one we can say that he stood tall and proud because he lived what he sang about. Stand! In the end you'll still be youâ€¦â€¦â€¦one that's done all the things he set out to do. I'm sure you never set out to ruin what your parents built. You're the one who told us that blood is thicker than mud! Well act like it, Man! Now with all this backstabbing is crazy and just plain wrongâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦all to support a habit that's going to put you in the ground that much sooner. Think of what you're doing to your children and grandchildren even. Wake up Man, before it's too late. I used to idolize you and told my children about you. You put out some great music. Now, you've sold out, Brother! We want Sly and the FAMILY Stone. What would your Mom and Dad think? I had the privilege of meeting your Mom and Dad and just from that brief meeting, I am certain they would never approve of this mess.
Please, we want Sly and the FAMILY Stone back. Bob Davis never spoke a truer word than when he said (paraphrasing) 'When the Stewart Family is in control of the character Sly Stone, we all smile! When the Family's not, we cry.'
Concert Review #1 - Sly & the Family Stone(?) @ BB Kings in NYC (11/20/2007)
("At $100 for a ticket, I felt ripped off. A shame.")
This review of last night's Sly & the Family Stone(?) show @ BB Kings in NYC comes from our friend Randall Grass. Read it and weep....
Just got back from the Sly & The Family Stone "show" and thought I'd file you a report while my memory was still fresh....
BB King's was packed to the gills (no surprise); the opening act, Ayo, performed gamely, just singing and playing acoustic guitar on her Corinne-Bailey-Rae-meets-Tracy-Chapman songs; 70% of the people ignored her and were talking...it really wasn't a fair showcase for her and truly she needed some backing musicians to deliver the nuances of her album
After a moderate delay, Sly Stone began addressing the crowd via a remote microphone from offstage, not altogether audibly...and after a couple minutes walked onstage complete with Mohawk and white jump suit and wrap-around shades. He wasn't talking too directly into his mic and was at times kinda of mumbling.....but he spent the next few minutes bringing out the band members individually introducing them, including Jerry Martini and Rose's daughter Lisa ("remember Rose?") Sly said (crowd roars approval), "well, she's not here but her daughter is.). After several minutes of this with three or four band members yet to be introduced Sly said "well, we got two shows to do tonight so the rest of the band should just come out"--which they did, including Cynthia Robinson. Sly didn't even introduce her!
Sly then spent the next several minutes fiddling with his keyboards, trying to adjust something. More disconnected mumbling into the mic...the New York crowd was starting to pissed off and antsy ("play something!" somebody shouted). Finally, Sly counted things off and the band hit "Dance To The Music" which segued into "Everyday People". Sly didn't sing or play; he just ambled around and spent most of the time standing on the side of the stage, almost offstage. The next tune was "Sing A Simple Song"; same deal. At this point the band sounded like a real good Sly & The Family Stone tribute band that happened to include two original members.
Sly came back to the keyboards and said some more stuff ( I couldn't really hear him); it seemed as though either he was fucking with the audience in a Sly-esque way or else whatever psychological issues he has were messing with him. Overall it seemed as though he was trying to figure out if he really wanted to be there.
He spun around on his seat so that his back was to the audience and the band kicked into "I Want To Take You Higher"; they changed up the groove a little in a very hip way, Sly played a little and sang some key phrases; this was the first moment that it seemed like it was more than a tribute band.
The next tune (I may be forgetting a tune or two in this run-down) was "If You Want Me To Stay" and it was the first tune on which Sly truly sang the lead vocal. He also played a NASTY keyboard solo with a very weird distorted tone. Probably the high point of the show, for me.
I think the band played a short version of "Sex Machine" next. I think there was one more vocal tune--I forget...then Sly announced "I'll be right back...I gotta pee" and walked off stage. Lisa and the other singer went off-stage as well as the band jammed on an instrumental funk tune I didn't recognize.
The male singer signaled the crowd to cheer for Sly to come back, which they did. He reappeared and the band launched into a strange version of "Family Affair"....it began with almost a smooth jazz vibe! Sly sang most of the tune, a bit raggedly I must say. Then he said "I got to go 'cause I'm old" and headed off-stage again, only to be brought back for a short reprise of "I Want To Take You Higher" (just like in the old days--except in the old days they would encore "I Want To Take You Higher" to stretch it out and REALLY take everyone higher!)...and then he left for good.
The band did a nice version of "Thank You For Lettin' Me Be Mice Elf Again" and that was it.
Overall the band was real good and if Sly had been fully engaged it could have been a great show. To me the weak link was the bass player; he was a good player but didn't really have a Family Stone vibe...other than that, Lisa was killin' every time she opened her mouth...really good. If you check the order of songs, looking at the titles, there was a certain message being laid between the lines.
At $100 for a ticket, I felt ripped off. A shame.
If I had never seen Sly & The Family Stone three times in their prime maybe it would have been worth it just to glimpse a legend but since I did see them three times in the late Sixties, this just didn't do it for me....
Concert Review #2 - Sly & the Family Stone(?) @ BB Kings in NYC (11/20/2007)
("Most of the time he was on, he was fiddling with his keyboard, laughing to himself, spinning around on his stool, in short acting just like a street corner junkie.")
This review of last night's Sly & the Family Stone(?) show @ BB Kings in NYC comes from our friend Greg Villepique. Once again, read it and weep...
I was also at the 8 PM show on Tuesday, and it was hands down the weirdest show I've ever been to. I agree with Randall that it was a fiasco.
The first ten minutes was essentially Sly doing a sound check on his keyboard, mumbling to himself, and calling out a few random band members for introductions, and as Randall mentioned, he didn't introduce Cynthia Robinson. Most of the time he was on, he was fiddling with his keyboard, laughing to himself, spinning around on his stool, in short acting just like a street corner junkie. The one pearl of wisdom that passed from his lips: "You remember all those times when I was late?" [pause, chuckle] "I was busy." Good euphemism. Even if he wasn't "busy" on Tuesday night, he looked and acted like he's been getting "busy" very recently.
Here's what bugs me about the whole business: if Sly is just plain mentally addled and incapable of a professional performance, which is not the most far-fetched interpretation of his onstage antics, then the only reason to go see him is to gawk at a human tragedy. If he is mentally addled but really needs the money, then these events are basically charity shows for Sly, in which case somebody should just set up an appeal on the internet rather than let him embarrass himself and his audience.
Even if Sly is sane and sober -- which seems like a really big "if" -- if he thinks that being abstract and playing around is enough, then he's the one fleecing the crowd, and it's reprehensible. Of course all people are complicated, and Sly is probably more complicated than most of us, but all the good feeling in the world isn't going to get his comeback off the ground if he is mentally incapable of it.
The Vanity Fair story this summer really made me think there was a chance Sly could come back for real, with the family, with new material, and blow us all away. Now that I've seen him, I think the story may have been sympathetic to a fault. The man we saw onstage at BB King's didn't look primed for anything but further embarrassment.
I hope I'm wrong about that.
As far as ticket prices, to me it depends on the venue and the performer. Prices are too high for a lot of things. I'd love to pay no more than $50 ever, but that would mean committing to never seeing Aretha, or Prince, or any other superstar who I never saw back in the day. I love that I can see Bettye Lavette or Ledisi for under $30 ...but for the higher-priced acts, if I feel like it's the only chance I'll have to see somebody great, I'll suck it up and pay. (That said, I only went to the Sly show because my friend had an extra ticket, so I didn't pay a dime.) Over the summer I spent around $100 to see BB King and Al Green at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, and to me it was totally worth it ... not for BB but for Al, who is in top form these days and has a deliriously great funk band behind him. While Sly can barely sing, Al stepped five feet away from the mic while holding high falsetto notes in front of a full band, and his voice still filled the hall. Al did an extended version of "Love and Happiness" that was so gritty and sexy that I felt like I finally understood why you older folks on here are always raving about the great funk shows of the '70s. I'm bringing up that concert because Al Green is only three years younger than Sly Stone. The brilliant Etta James I also paid a lot to see a couple of years ago, and she delivered. She's only five years older than Sly. It's not about age; it's about having the ability and the will to perform.
Commentary - Jill Newman: The real culprit behind the Sly fiasco
("Most of the time he was on, he was fiddling with his keyboard, laughing to himself, spinning around on his stool, in short acting just like a street corner junkie.")
This commentary comes from our friend Carlton J. Smith. Once again, read it and weep...
I have had the extreme good fortune of actually running into Sly Stone on three occasions during his "exile".
I say good fortune because each and every time I met him he was kind, courteous, and quite lucid. One of those times he was in the company of Bobby Womack. And the THREE of us kicked it.
I had to keep a tight grip on my bladder that day ladies and gentleman because as a music fan, I was ready to lose it, being in the presence of of such musical history in the flesh. And you add in the fact that they didn't have a problem with chatting with me? Man I should have had a diaper on.
Sly stopping to converse with me is mind-blowing in and of itself, because had he blown me off, I would have almost understood due to him being who he is.
I was fortunate enough to befriend an ex girlfriend of his and she let me hear hours and hours of unreleased home demos that he composed and recorded right there in her basement.
I guarantee you folks there's a solid 12 - 14 cut CD in there. Whether or not it will ever see the light of day due to their separation on less than pleasant terms..oh well.
Now back to the fiasco that unfolded at B.B.Kings.
No I was not there due to my having a gig of my own that night, but I'll be at the other shows.
I say the culprit behind this show is not B.B.Kings - they are not always aware of what the deal is in regards to who they're booking. I can't tell you how many times early on they would call me in the back office to ask me if "..these are the REAL Stylistics/Manhattans/Intruders/ etc...."
So I dare say the folks in the back office that do the booking and that own the club - all fine gentleman who I've had my artistic differences with over the years but good people none the less - those guys wouldn't know Freddie Stewart, Rose Stewart, Gregg Errico, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham, Cynthia Robinson, and Rusty Allen (yes he gets honorable mention) if the group broke into their homes wearing name plate belt buckles and menaced them with a blow torch.
They just wouldn't.
However JILL NEWMAN - she of "Jill Newman Productions" - she knew who the hell she was bringing in there and she also knew who WASN'T coming. And if she didn't know at the onset, as soon as she knew, it was incumbent upon her to notify the club to stop advertising as such.
No one likes Jill Newman. The people at B.B.Kings detest her, and this is what I've heard and overheard from various sources. She's one of these people in this business who don't sing, dance, write, produce, or have any discernible talent whatsoever other than an uncanny ability to attach their names to certain celebrities and ride on their coattails.
She's rude, belligerent, dismissive, curt, abrupt, and just generally not a nice person. I'm sure she has a few friends SOMEWHERE, no one is all bad - but for the most part, the next time I hear someone say something nice about her it will be the first time.
She attempted to keep me off the stage this past New Years eve when I was to be the opening act for "her artist" Chaka Khan (who didn't even know the words to "I FEEL GOOD" - a simpler song you will never run across unless it's "Mary Had A Little Lamb"), Jill did her level best to have me kicked off the show and when that failed she cut my time down to 20 minutes. I still went out there and broke it off in 'em Apollo theatre style. Jill Newman will never know how close she came to crossing the River Jordan that night.
As far as I'm concerned she's the one that's ripping people off by advertising the Family Stone, knowing full well that's not what the buying public is going to get.
So don't get mad at B.B.Kings, don't get mad at Sly - he's just trying to put some coin in his pocket - but Jill Newman should be chased through Times Square like the villagers used to chase Frankenstein - with sticks and torches and rope. Chase her right up into a windmill and banish her from this business until she learns how to be a decent person and an honest businesswoman.
This business has enough people in it who display a##holish behavior unintentionally - this business makes you do stupid, mindless things sometimes - but we do not need someone who is purposefully an a##hole from the start.
LONG LIVE THE MUSIC OF SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE because at the end of the day, that's what really matters.
Carlton J. Smith
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