POP / Riffs: Carleen Anderson on Sly and the Family Stone's 'If You Want Me to Stay'

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The Independent Online
THIS is a great tune because of the movement in it. It's the usual stuff of a church band - guitar, drums, electric bass, organ, tambourine - and it's got that church arrangement, very repetitious, the guitar and keyboards playing the same chords over and over. My father, Reuben Anderson, was apprenticed to Sly Stone's father in his ministerial training at the Church of Christ in God, so this reminds me of home. What makes it move is the melodic bass line, which is countering Sly's vocal melody, pulling in the other direction. This gives him the room to be creative with his vocal melody, so you don't get bored with the unchanging rhythm.

Lyrically, it's slight: 'If you want me to stay, I'll be around today, / To be available for you to see, / But I've got to go, And then you'll know, / For me to stay here I've got to be me.' He has a high voice which is scratchy - you guys would say gravelly. His tone's in between the sweetness of Marvin Gaye or Al Green, and the hard-edged sound of Wilson Pickett or Rufus Thomas. He flows easy through the vocal performance. There's a little instrumental break, then he ends with a scat, da da da da, and 'I'm through, y'all.'

Available on 'The Best of Sly and the Family Stone' (Epic CD4717582)

(Photograph omitted)

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