Family Affair (Sly and the Family Stone song)
|Single by Sly and the Family Stone|
|from the album There's a Riot Goin' On|
|B-side||"Luv N' Haight"|
|Released||6 November 1971|
|Sly and the Family Stone singles chronology|
"Family Affair" is a 1971 number-one hit single recorded by Sly and the Family Stone for the Epic Records label. Their first new material since the double a-sided single "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)"/ "Everybody Is a Star" nearly two years prior, "Family Affair" became the third and final number-one pop single for the band. Rolling Stone magazine later ranked the song #139 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song version by John Legend, Joss Stone, and Van Hunt, won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at 49th Annual Grammy Awards.
The hit single features a programmed rhythm track and electric piano-based instrumentation.
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Released on November 6, 1971, "Family Affair" was markedly different from the earlier Sly & the Family Stone hits. "Family Affair" is a somber, Hohner Pianet electric piano based record with a rhythm box (or drum machine) providing the rhythm, making it the first number-one hit to feature a programmed rhythm track. Sly Stone and his sister Rose sing lead on the song. Bobby Womack was invited to play rhythm guitar. The lyrics reflect the good and bad aspects of being family, with Sly delivering his part in a low funk-styled tone instead of his earlier gospel-based shout, sounding off rhythm and off key. Sly's screams emulate a child crying.
"Family Affair" was the most successful hit of Sly & the Family Stone's career, peaking at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, while achieving the same on the Billboard R&B Singles chart for five weeks. Billboard ranked it as the No. 79 song for 1972. The band's long-awaited fifth album, There's a Riot Goin' On, debuted at number one on the Billboard soul album charts during the same period. There's a Riot Goin' On was typified by a deep, dark style of funk, evident in "Family Affair", that earned the album a place as one of the most influential albums of all time.
Recorded in his Bel Air home studio and in New York at CBS, and mixed in Los Angeles at The Record Plant, with the exception of his sister Rose singing the refrain, "It's a family affair", Sly did not utilize the Family Stone for this recording. His friend Billy Preston played the keyboard lines in the song with Sly also playing keyboard as well as guitar, bass, and programming the rhythm box.
According to the biography Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History, Sly Stone felt that this song wasn't strong enough to be released as a single. His manager and Epic Records—especially A&R executive Stephen Paley—had to convince him otherwise.
Notable covers and derivative recordings
"Family Affair" has been heavily covered, with versions by Tyrone Davis, The Brothers Johnson, MFSB, Iggy Pop, Bunny Wailer, Andrew Roachford, and many more. The song's drum machine-created rhythm was duplicated in several early to mid-1970s recordings, in particular The Temptations' "Let Your Hair Down" (1973), and Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothin'" (1974).
Madonna featured this song as an intro to "Keep It Together" on her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990. A rap-infused, danceable cover was released by German Milli Vanilli spinoff band Try 'N' B in 1992. Another retooled cover was done in 1993 by Shabba Ranks featuring Patra and Terri & Monica as a single for the Addams Family Values soundtrack. This version charted on the Billboard pop chart at number 84, number 16 on the R&B chart, and number-six on the Hot Rap Tracks chart. Prince sampled the song on his track "Y Should Eye Do That When Eye Can Do This?".
In 2005, John Legend, Joss Stone and Van Hunt recorded a cover featuring elements of the original recording for Different Strokes by Different Folks, a Sly & the Family Stone tribute/remix album. This version of "Family Affair" won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
- Sly Stone — vocals, bass, electric guitar and drum programming
- Rose Stone — vocals
- Billy Preston — Hohner Pianet
Sly & the Family Stone version
|Chart (1971/1972)||Peak |
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1|
|U.S. Billboard Best Selling Soul Singles||1|
Shabba Ranks version
|Chart (1993)||Peak |
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||84|
|U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks||16|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Rap Tracks||6|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales||11|
- Hot 100 number-one hits of 1971 (USA)
- R&B number-one hits of 1971 (USA)
- R&B number-one hits of 1972 (USA)
- Billboard.com - Search Results: Family Affair Sly (singles charts). Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved on 2008-08-16.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 534.
- Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972