Sly and the Family Stone: 20 Essential Songs

The best from the generation-defining funk-soul-rock legends

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"Family Affair" (1971)

Greil Marcus famously wrote that There's a Riot Goin' On! "was no fun. It was slow, hard to hear, and it isn't celebrating anything." In short, "It was not groovy." These were all meant as compliments since the album's dark tones – literal and figurative – felt like an unflinchingly honest expression of both the Family Stone's internal turmoil and the state of America waking up from its late Sixties high and facing the early Seventies' bleak hangover. The group's last Number One single, "Family Affair," was a sobering retreat from the sunny positivity of "Everybody Is a Star," replacing it with a meditation on human strife and weakness, cleverly masked within the mesmerizing burbling of its drum machine rhythms. In a 1971 Rolling Stone interview, Sly insisted, "I don't feel being torn apart," but many around him wondered otherwise.

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