Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SLY STONE: 'I Want To Take You Higher' And Its Unending Influence!

Happy Birthday to SLY STONE!

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE are one of the most influential bands in history. Here's just one song and its impact on four decades of music, with a music player of all!

"I Want To Take You Higher" is just about the Big Bang of Funk-Rock. It drove half-a-million people to their feet in dancing ecstasy at Woodstock, and helped turn Funk music into the soundtrack of the 70's. From HipHop to Mixology, from Manchester to Iran to Japan, it continues to lift the world.

SLY actually did it before and after he did it. The trial run was an album track called "Higher" in 1968, and again on another epic track called "Dance To The Medley". (The psychedelic soul of the latter is virtually the template for Funkadelic.)

Those joyful gospel choral chants of "Higher" must've triggered something, and the ultimate song "I Want To Take You Higher" ascended in 1969 on the essential album, "STAND". Later he did the wry rewrite "I Get High On You" in 1975, and a playful bounce of it as "High, Y'all" in 1983.


The song became an instant classic and was either covered by everyone or referenced lyrically for years to come. The core of it is the "Higher!" chant. It summed up the utopian hopes of the progressive counterculture generation, while also winking about getting high.

If it wasn't being covered by Brian Auger, Tina Turner, or Googoosh (Iran), then the "Higher" chant was popping up in originals from The Temptations, The Chambers Brothers, War, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and beyond.

It gets a shout-out in the rapidfire pop history novelty "Life Is A Rock", gets quoted on the trail-out of "Play That Funky Music", and may be referenced sideways in Paul McCartney's banned single "Hi Hi Hi".

Into the 80's and 90's, it rises up in Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines", an unreleased song with the same name by Roger Taylor (Queen), a Curtis Mayfield homage by Lenny Kravitz, a Madchester trip-out by raving Moonflowers, a namecheck by Public Enemy, a pot anthem by Cypress Hill, and an electro resurge from Future Funk.


Another key ingredient of the song that keeps coming back up is the lyric "Boom shacka lacka lacka, boom shacka lacka lacka, boom shacka lacka lacka boom". Everybody uses it, even if by now they don't know where it came from.

This chant has become a classic Reggae song, a Reggae band, and a Reggae magazine.

It jumps up in HipHop songs like "Whoomp! There It is!" and pop songs like Brianna's "Boom Shaka Laka".

It's become slang in Basketball and in HipHop.

It's even been the name of a Bollywood film and an Indian fantasy TV series for kids!

George Clinton and Sly Stone, 2008.

"Feeling that should make you move
Sounds that should help you groove
Music still flashin' me
Take your places

1 comment:

gris gris said...

just discovered your blog. all i can say is: this is an amazing place. totally forgot the time just scrolling down this page, listening to the wonderful music and reading your insightful posts. much appreciated - you're the man!

peace & love from germany!