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I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly and the Family Stone Hardcover – September 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Backbeat Books (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879309342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879309343
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,463,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kaliss traces the former Sylvester Stewart from Denton, Texas, beginnings through fame as Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone to the present. After the band’s fourth album, Stand! yielded monster hits in the title song, Everyday People, and the Aquarian party anthem I Want to Take You Higher, Sly rivaled James Brown and George Clinton as a progenitor of funk. Unlike the Godfather of Soul’s and Dr. Funkenstein’s, Sly’s career fizzled in the mid-1970s as substance abuse and other problems facilitated a huge reputation for missing gigs and heightened tensions within the band. Recently, Stone granted Kaliss his first face-to-face interview in 20 years, spawning this book. Kaliss finds Stone enigmatic but planning a comeback. He never quit making music—or being mysterious. At one point, he deserts Kaliss mid-chat. Mindful of Sly’s tendency to disappear . . . on whim, Kaliss just picks up the conversation later. A psychedelic ethereality infuses the book and, given Stone’s internal workings, rather confirms Kaliss’ veracity. Good, if vague in places; an important piece of pop-music history. --Mike Tribby

Review

Finally, the definitive and story of the life and times of Sly Stone is here.... Kaliss delivers a vivid tale of funky love, music and drugs that nails the tale of Sly Stone. -- Rickey Vincent, author of Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One. It's amazing, although not exactly surprising, that Sly and the Family Stone's volatile story has never fully been told. But now it has, and the tellers include the elusive and elliptical Sly Stone himself. Whatever else he is, he's a stone genius; a major influence on R&B, funk, pop and rock musicians since he emerged in 1968. Through Sly and his band, this book offers additional lessons, about traversing life as well as about making music. --Ben Fong-Torres, author of Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll and Becoming Almost Famous: My Back Pages in Music, Writing and Life Jeff Kaliss gives his readers a fascinating tour of the life of an errant, irreverent, and iridescent musical legend. -- David Kapralik, former manager, Sly & the Family Stone Jeff Kaliss's wonderful work captures the group, the times and its relevance. -- Dennis Watlington author of Chasing America: Notes from a Rock 'n' Soul Integrationist An account as upbeat as those early hits... it s a great tale. -- Mojo Meticulously reported. -- Vibe Essential reading for anyone interested in a musician who reshaped popular music. --SF Weekly Finally, the definitive and story of the life and times of Sly Stone is here.... Kaliss delivers a vivid tale of funky love, music and drugs that nails the tale of Sly Stone. -- Rickey Vincent, author of Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One It's amazing, although not exactly surprising, that Sly and the Family Stone's volatile story has never fully been told. But now it has, and the tellers include the elusive and elliptical Sly Stone himself. Whatever else he is, he's a stone genius; a major influence on R&B, funk, pop and rock musicians since he emerged in 1968. Through Sly and his band, this book offers additional lessons, about traversing life as well as about making music. -- Ben Fong-Torres, author of Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll and Becoming Almost Famous: My Back Pages in Music, Writing and Life Jeff Kaliss gives his readers a fascinating tour of the life of an errant, irreverent, and iridescent musical legend. -- David Kapralik, former manager, Sly & the Family Stone Jeff Kaliss's wonderful work captures the group, the times and its relevance. --Dennis Watlington author of Chasing America: Notes from a Rock 'n' Soul Integrationist

Essential reading for anyone interested in a musician who reshaped popular music. --SF Weekly

An account as upbeat as those early hits... it s a great tale. -- Mojo
Meticulously reported. --Vibe

More About the Author

JEFF KALISS writes reviews, commentary, textbooks, and books, articles, and festival and album liner notes based on the more than a thousand interviews he's conducted over three decades, about many musics --- classical, jazz, blues, world, country, and rock ---, as well as on the topics of film, theater, and broadcast media. His interviewees have included Marilyn Horne, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, John Lee Hooker, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana, Bob Weir, and Sly Stone, and he's the author of an authorized biography: I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & the Family Stone (Backbeat Books, 2009).

Jeff's work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Jose Mercury-News, the Christian Science Monitor, Creative Loafing (Atlanta), Songlines magazine, the San Francisco Examiner, and San Francisco Classical Voice (http://www.sfcv.org). He lives in San Francisco with his wife, children, and cat, and is contemplating book projects outside of entertainment.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael OConnor TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Given the impact Sly Stone had on pop music in the 1960s and after, it's amazing more books haven't been written on the life and times of America's first master of funk. Jeff Kaliss takes a comprehensive look at the man - and the group - that gave us 'Stand,' 'Hot Fun in the Summertime,' 'Everyday People,' 'Thank You (Falettineme Be Mice Elf Agin' and other pop classics. Kaliss has done a marvelous job of researching his subject and I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER is a must-read for all Sly Stone/Sixties rock music fans.

No Sixties group could touch Sly and the Family Stone for catchy, infectious songs that jumped off the vinyl and got their listeners up and shaking their tailfeathers. Yet Sly's songs weren't just empty-headed dance tunes for, wrapped up in those funky beats, were sincere, heartfelt calls for brotherhood and understanding. Tragically, the joy and magic and fun generated by the Family Stone's creation and initial success fell victim to drugs. Original group members left and Sly launched into a roller-coaster, drug-fueled ride that turned this tremendous talent into a reclusive Howard Hughes clone.

I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER is a fairly slim volume - only 210 pages long - but Kaliss' in-depth research, which included interviews with original group members and even the man himself(!) produced an insightful, informative tale. While Kaliss doesn't shy away from warts-and-all exposure, his tone is even-handed and sympathetic.

The book's emphasis is on Sly and Company. After all, its sub-title is 'The Life and Times of Sly and the Family Stone.' So, while Kaliss discusses the group's musical output, he doesn't devote a great deal of space to that. Personally I would have liked a bit more on the music.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Dennis on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was really looking forward to this one, seeing that it was authorized by the reclusive Sly Stone himself. It starts off good with lots of details about his pre-fame but then it becomes a rather pedestrian, album-by-album review once we get to "Dance To The Music" and "Stand." Maybe I expected more after reading the hard-to-come by "For The Record" oral history which is told by everyone except Sly himself. Sly remains a cipher.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on December 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sylvester Stewart (a.k.a. Sly Stone) has long been one of music's most reclusive geniuses, and Jeff Kaliss scored a major coup by working his way into Sly's sheltered inner circle. Thus we have the first-ever authoritative biography of Sly & the Family Stone, built upon recent interviews with the man himself, as well as fairly in-depth research into period sources. The early parts of the book provide some insight into the inspirations that made Sly a truly unique originator who is credited with directly inspiring several different genres of modern music. Kaliss also does a fine job catching up with all the band members in the present day.

But this book is somewhat lacking in its coverage of the Family Stone's years of greatest success, with a rushed and awkward sense of pacing. Kaliss attempts to explain how the band's sunny brilliance turned into brooding inconsistency due to drugs and infighting, but doesn't quite truly illuminate the struggles faced by the band. Kaliss was apparently unable to decide between historical coverage of the entire Family Stone band or a basic biography of Sylvester Stewart, vacillating unevenly between the two and leaving many key band members unfairly under-represented (such as bassist Larry Graham). Both of the above problems are exemplified by an offhand reference (pg. 125) to the fact that Sly fathered a child with longtime bandmate Cynthia Robinson, a tidbit that Kaliss tosses off with no analysis of band relations or the relevance of events on anyone but Sly. Kaliss also fumbles in a few places in making thin postmodern-ish connections between the Family Stone's music and the modern genres it influenced.

So this biography feels rather thin and undeveloped, but it still sheds a lot of light on one of the most mysterious geniuses in American music history. Fans of Sly & the Family Stone will be generally well-informed by this book, as will historically-minded lovers of influential American music. [~doomsdayer520~]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John A. Bennett on August 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
A good overview for the uninitiated, or long-time fan. Generally more positive and upbeat than Joel Selvin's Oral Biography. Kaliss is obviously an admirer, not that there is anything wrong with that.

One nit-pick: Too often Kaliss uses 'fancy' words when simple ones would have worked better. "Sly conveyed himself...," instead of "drove;" "Rose intoned...," instead of sang; and repeated use of "abode," rather than house or home. It seems clunky, and like he's trying too hard to sound scholarly.

Overall, a pretty good read about a fascinating man.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on December 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sly and the Family Stone have left their mark on rock, funk and pop music - and their biography I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER follows the highs and lows of the group, which moved from local to global fame and back - undermined by drugs. With cooperation from Sly himself as well as band members and friends, Jeff Kaliss provides the first in-depth, insider's account of Sly and the Family Stone, and is a pick for any library strong in modern music history.

Diane C. Donovan
California Bookwatch
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