Sly and the Family Stone – Family Affair

“Family Affair,” was on the album There’s A Riot Goin’ On and the last Sly & The Family Stone song to hit #1.

The song’s rhythm was provided by a drum machine, making it one of the earliest hit recordings and the first #1 single to use such a device. The song peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #15 in the UK, and #11 in New Zealand.

Sly did not use 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. His sister Rose sang with him and Bobby Womack played rhythm guitar.

From Songfacts

According to Dave Marsh’s book 1001 Greatest Songs, Sly Stone’s manager told Rolling Stone that Family Affair was the story of Sly’s own life, which was being cut up by the factions that surrounded him in his stardom. Chief among those factions, David Kapralik hinted, was Sly’s own family. Sly denied this. He told Rolling Stone, “Song’s not about that. Song’s about a family affair, whether it’s a result of genetic processes or a situation in the environment.” There was a rumor at the time that Stone had written it in response to demands made on him by black nationalist groups, who didn’t approve of his integrationist sensibility.

According to the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs, when There’s A Riot Goin’ On came out in 1971, a reporter mentioned the rumor that Sly Stone had played all the instruments himself, and he asked Sly just how much he played. “I’ve forgotten, man,” Stone said. “Whatever was left.” 

Family Affair

It’s a family affair, it’s a family affair
It’s a family affair, it’s a family affair

One child grows up to be
Somebody that just loves to learn
And another child grows up to be
Somebody you’d just love to burn

Mom loves the both of them
You see it’s in the blood
Both kids are good to Mom
“Blood’s thicker than mud”

It’s a family affair, it’s a family affair
Newlywed a year ago
But you’re still checking each other out
Nobody wants to blow

Nobody wants to be left out
You can’t leave, ’cause your heart is there
But you can’t stay, ’cause you been somewhere else!

You can’t cry, ’cause you’ll look broke down
But you’re cryin’ anyway ’cause you’re all broke down!

It’s a family affair
It’s a family affair

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

9 thoughts on “Sly and the Family Stone – Family Affair”

  1. Love Sly and the Family Stone. All of the musicians in the Family Stone are fabulous, but Sly was a musical genius. Very underrated.
    Speaking of Bobby Womack, he’s a wonderful guitarist. Top of the line. Just listen to his playing on Trust Me, by Janis Joplin. He also wrote the song. He was a close friend of hers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Apparently both Freddie Stone and Larry Graham were very upset with this song and most of the entire album. They considered, correctly, that Sly’s guitar playing and bass playing was immensely inferior to their own playing, and they didn’t want fans thinking it was them. As great as Riot is (my personal fav of Sly) it was the beginning of the end of an amazing group. But the darkness of the album sounds very much like the cocaine & hookers bender of the recordings in Sly’s bedroom.


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