Funk legend who lives in a camper van: Sly Stone reveals how he ended up broke


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The Independent Culture

Sly Stone, the pioneering musician behind some of the greatest funk hits of the 1960s and 1970s, has joined the Everyday People he once hymned. He is homeless and living out of a camper van parked on the mean streets of south-central Los Angeles.

Five years after he was last seen in public, the singer has turned-up in Crenshaw, the neighbourhood made famous by the film Boyz * the Hood. Financial mismanagement combined with decades of vigorous drug abuse has left him estranged from former colleagues and virtually penniless.

"I like my small camper," he told the New York Post, which tracked him down to a residential street. "I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place. I must keep moving." The newspaper described Stone as dishevelled and suffering from paranoid delusions.

The downfall of a man whose success has brought tens of millions of dollars – thanks to such enduring hits as "Family Affair," and "Dance To The Music" – reads like a cautionary tale of misspent celebrity.

Stone, who is 68, once lived in a vast, mock-Tudor mansion in Beverly Hills. In the heyday of his band, Sly and the Family Stone, he presided over extravagant house parties attended by the likes of Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.

He quit the group in 1975, and performed only sporadically during the 1980s, gaining a reputation as a recluse. Court appearances for drug offences began to outnumber concerts. A one-off appearance at the 2006 Grammys, his first performance since 1987, saw him inexplicably leave the stage mid-way through a medley of greatest hits.

As recently as 2009, Stone still earned a decent income from his back catalogue, and was able to reside at a rented property in California's Napa Valley with its own vineyard. But a legal dispute with his former manager Jerry Goldstein, who he last year sued for $50m, has left him deep in the red.

In addition to the van, his remaining assets include a vintage Studebaker car. He posed in front of the vehicle for the Post this week, wearing a helmet and white jumpsuit.

The newspaper said an elderly couple bring Stone a hot meal each day. He spends his days making music on a laptop, which contains hundreds of unreleased songs. "Please tell everybody to give me a job, play my music," he said.