Dance to the Music (song)

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"Dance to the Music"
Single by Sly and the Family Stone
from the album Dance to the Music
Released January 1968
Format 7" single
Recorded 1967
Genre Psychedelic soul, funk
Length 3:00
Label Epic
5-10256
EMI Columbia
DB 8369 (March 1968 UK release)
Direction
58-3568 (June 1968 UK reissue)
Writer(s) Sly Stone
Producer(s) Sly Stone
Sly and the Family Stone singles chronology
"Higher"
(1967)
"Dance to the Music"
(1968)
"Life"/"M'Lady"
(1968)

"Dance to the Music" is a 1968 hit single by the influential soul/funk/rock band Sly and the Family Stone for the Epic/CBS Records label. It was the first single by the band to reach the Billboard Pop Singles Top 10, peaking at #8 and the first to popularize the band's sound, which would be emulated throughout the black music industry and dubbed "psychedelic soul". It was later ranked #223 on Rolling Stone '​s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

History[edit]

Reluctance to adopt a pop sound[edit]

Notably, none of the band members particularly liked "Dance to the Music" when it was first recorded and released. The song, and the accompanying Dance to the Music LP, were made at the insistence of CBS Records executive Clive Davis, who wanted something more commercially viable than the band's 1967 LP, A Whole New Thing. Bandleader Sly Stone crafted a formula, blending the band's distinct psychedelic rock leanings with a more pop-friendly sound. The result was what saxophonist Jerry Martini called "glorified Motown beats. "Dance to the Music" was such an unhip thing for us to do."[1]

About the song[edit]

However, "Dance to the Music" did what it was supposed to do: it launched Sly & the Family Stone into the pop consciousness. Even toned down for pop audiences, the band's radical sound caught many music fans and fellow recording artists completely off guard. "Dance to the Music" featured four co-lead singers, black musicians and white musicians in the same band (segregation had just been repealed four years prior), and a distinct blend of instrumental sounds: rock guitar riffs from Sly's brother Freddie Stone, a funk bassline from Larry Graham, Greg Errico's syncopated drum track, Sly's gospel-styled organ playing, and Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson on the horns.

An unabashed party record, "Dance to the Music" opens with Robinson screaming to the audience, demanding that they "get on up...and dance to the music!" before the Stone brothers and Graham break into an a cappella scat before the song's verses begin. The actual lyrics of the song are sparse and self-referential. The song serves as a Family Stone theme song of sorts, introducing Errico, Robinson, and Martini by name. After calling on Robinson and Martini for their solo, Sly tells the audience that "Cynthia an' Jerry got a message that says...", which Robinson finishes: "All the squares go home!"

Legacy[edit]

"Dance to the Music" was one of the most influential songs of the late-1960s. The Sly & the Family Stone sound became the dominating sound in African-American pop music for the next three years, and many established artists, such as The Temptations and their producer Norman Whitfield, Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Impressions, The Four Tops, The 5th Dimension, and War began turning out Family Stone-esque material. The Temptations, in fact, rode their first "Dance to the Music"-inspired single, "Cloud Nine", all the way to the Pop Top Ten and to a 1968 Grammy Award. "Dance to the Music" and the later Family Stone singles also helped lead to the development of what is now known as funk music.

Cover versions and uses in pop culture[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Selvin, Joel. Interview with Jerry Martini. For the Record: Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History. Pg. 60
  2. ^ The Best of Soul Train Live (booklet). Time Life. 2011. 

References[edit]