. . .
One thing that Sly Stone was never afraid to do was to steal from himself and be totally meta about doing so. And so “Dance to the Music” the song was followed up with Dance to The Music the album in early 1968, which featured a proto-version of “Higher” and an extended 12-minute version of “Dance to The Music.”
On the singles front, the next thing they issued was “Life,” in June 1968. Opening with a carnivalesque organ, joyous horns and the Family Stone making like barkers trying to entice you into a tent, “Life” wasn’t as much of a party as “Dance to the Music,” but it also wasn’t not as much of a party as “Dance to The Music.”
Just a different kind of party that’s all.
Past the clouds
You don’t have to come down
Tell it like it is
You don’t have to die before you live
And while once again, multiple people — in this case Freddie Stone, Larry Graham and Sly Stone — trade off verses, “Life” is more of a proper pop song, always coming back to the chorus, driven by Gregg Errico’s drum rolls and (especially) Larry Graham’s bass. I mean, serious, that bassline is an utter monster, always pushing the song forward.
And I gotta ask, is this the first spotting of what would end up being the classic disco bassline? In 1968? I’m hardly an expert, but I can’t think of anything earlier. I also love the exultant vocals — my favorite comes at the end when they all add a “WHOO-WOO” to the last chorus — and the horns, which stubbornly stick to the carnival motif from the song’s opening.
And so you’d think that with all of this joy, fun, popcraft and sheer innovation, “Life” would join “Dance to The Music” in the top ten. But you’d be wrong. It barely scratched the Hot 100, topping out at #93, and threatening to turn Sly & The Family Stone into one-hit wonders.
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