February 1970: Sly & The Family Stone Says "Thank You" for a No. 1 Hit

Sly & The Family Stone in 1970.
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GAB Archive/Redferns

Sly & The Family Stone had a lot to be thankful for in 1969. The diverse soul-funk group had two of the year's Top 10 singles - the chart-topping "Everyday People" and the No. 2 smash "Hot Fun in the Summertime" - and had also performed a stunning set at the Woodstock Music & Art Festival. So, for their next single, they decided to show their gratitude.

Released at the end of 1969, "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" was a sort of cap on the group's career up to that point, with a verse full of references to some of their biggest hits up to that point, like "Dance to the Music," "Sing a Simple Song," "Everyday People" and "You Can Make It If You Try."

But it was also an unintentional look at the psyche of the band's genius creative force, Sly Stone, who was struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. "Dying young is hard to take," he sings reflectively in the final verse. "Selling out is harder.”

Nonetheless, the song was typically innovative, thanks in large part to Larry Graham's innovative bass technique. On "Thank You," Graham attacks the strings with his fingers, resulting in slapped, popped notes that would become a mainstay of funk music in the decades to come. "Thumping and plucking is something that I had already created," Graham said in the liner notes to the box set Higher! "I created the style while working with my mother, who was a pianist and vocalist. I would thump the strings to make up for not having a kick drum, and pluck the strings to make up for not having a snare drum."

"Thank You" became Sly & The Family Stone's second chart-topper, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in February 1970. The track appeared with its B-side "Everybody is a Star" and "Hot Fun in the Summertime" on the band's bestselling Greatest Hits album later that year, and a radically reworked version, "Thank You for Talkin' to Me Africa," closed 1971's chart-topping masterpiece There's a Riot Goin' On.

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