61. Sly and the Family Stone - Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

While my two brothers and I were huge music fans and had some natural ability to play things and had great ears for music, we never took it to the next level and bothered learning to play any instrument well and start a band. Then again, that never stopped Sid Vicious, who may just possibly be the worst bass player in the history of recorded music. Maybe if we had, you'd have bought one of our Scotto and the Family Walker albums, just now being rereleased on vinyl by Rhino Records. We could've been the white boy funk fest superstars, a la the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But it was never meant to be. Luckily, though, Sly started a band that featured his brother and sister that took the early style of funk laced soul that James Brown and Jr. Walker and the All Stars did and took it to its next incarnation.

The finest example of their funk revolution is Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). It's a song that just barely makes this list, because it was released just a month after I was born. Also, the song that would become one of their greatest and most influential hits doesn't appear on any of their studio albums. They were working on an album that never got finished, but they knew "Thank You" was a winner. So they released it as a single and it later ended up on their first greatest hits record.

It starts out with a great funk intro with bassist Larry Graham slapping his bass like it stole his lunch money. At the time, it was a new technique for bass playing, and funk music wouldn't be the same without it. You've also got the horn section that takes the jazzy arrangements of their predecessors and turns it on its head. The guitar playing reminds me of disco, but then I'm reminded that this is about eight years before disco. And in the same song, you can hear two different guitars playing unique styles, and for someone who's a big guitar fan, it's almost an embarrassment of riches. Musically, the song has a lot going on, but the melody of the words is simplicity itself. It's basically the same phrasing repeated until you get to the chorus. It doesn't take away from the great music playing in the background. And the singing is just everyone stepping up to a microphone and helping out.

For a band that started with positive uplifting songs like "Everyday People" and "Dance to the Music," the lyrics take a more somber turn in "Thank You." The unabashed enthusiasm and optimism has been tempered by the life that they've led in between, and it shows in the lyrics:

Want to thank you for the party, I could never stay
Many things is on my mind, words in the way

Want to thank you falettinme be mice elf agin
Thank you falettinme be mice elf agin

The way they spelled the "for letting me be myself again" goes to show you that things are no longer the same for Sly and his disenchantment confuses him. He wants everything to be the way it was, but is resigned that they never will be. So there's a bit of snideness to his thank you, like when your roomate returns your car that he borrowed unharmed, but with vapors in the tank. "Yeah, thanks" you say, as he tosses your keys to you and heads back to his room for a nap. Maybe I'm reading waaaay to much into the lyrics, but the tone is definitely more heavy than their earlier songs. But you can see that newfound pessimism in these lyrics:

Youth and truth are makin' love
Dig it for a starter
Dyin' young is hard to take
Sellin' out is harder

There's more meat on these lyrical bones than Sly and the Family Stone had ever had before, and I, for one, liked it. Happy songs are great, and I generally love listening to them, but they generally won't make you think too much about the deeper things in life.

The music for "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" brought me to the table, but the lyrics helped keep me there. It wasn't until my late teens that I first heard this song, and I'm glad it wasn't until I was a bit older and was emotionally capable to get more out of the lyrics. The thirteen year-old in me wants "Everyday People," but the twenty (and now forty) year-old in me wants to listen to "Thank You." And if I have to choose one, well, you know how this one ends. #61. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)

Fun Fact #531 (Even if you've never heard this song before, you probably have. The music is the sampled basis for Janet Jackson's 1991 hit, "Rhythm Nation")
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