One of the most amazing bands ever assembled was Sly & The Family Stone. They were of their time, and beyond their time. When they arrived in 1967 with A Whole New Thing, I’m sure audiences didn’t know what to make of them. By 1968, with Dance To The Music, people were starting to get hip to the mixed-race, mixed gender band with the positive messages and music that made you feel good. Then in 1969, they went to Woodstock and turned the place out, expanding their audience in the process; similar to the way Otis Redding did after playing Monterey Pop. And in the wake of that success, they released this gem of a song, one of the group’s biggest hits.
“Hot Fun In The Summertime” is the Flashback Friday song for today.
The line in the song that resonates to me is when Larry Graham (later to form Graham Central Station, eventually went solo) sings “county fair in the country sun.” Living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, town carnivals and county 4-H fairs are common occurrences in the summer. In fact, this very week, one of the small towns in a neighboring county is holding their annual carnival. The town where I live will be holding theirs during the July 4th week. It is nothing during the middle of the summer that some town, in some locale will be holding a fair or carnival. As a child, rides, games and food were the big draws, much as they are now. Most of these (save the 4-H ones) are usually big fundraisers for the volunteer fire departments for their respective towns.
Much like yesterday’s Morning Groove from War, this song also reminds me of summer. It’s a wonderful song; even though it only hangs around for about two and a half minutes, it also evokes a time and place. Sadly, not too much longer after this hit, Sly & The Family Stone would begin to lose the sunny disposition and turn to a darker place, most specifically with There’s A Riot Goin’ On. Drugs and defections by band members, missed or cancelled shows and general erratic behavior marred the group (mostly Sly) through the 70s. I often wonder what they could have produced had they been able to stick together and not have the obstacles and adversity that forced them from the scene. The talent was such that they had a few hits even after the downward spiral, but things just weren’t the same.
Enjoy “Hot Fun In The Summertime,” as it is the conclusion to “summer” week. As always, thanks for listening and reading.