I’ve always liked to believe – because I read it somewhere when I was a kid – that the phrase “different strokes for different folks” was written by Sylvester Stewart and appeared for the first time in this song. Of course, that’s not true: but the song’s success certainly helped to popularise it.
Featuring on their marvellous 1969 Stand! LP, Everyday People is a two-and-a-half minute showcase for everything that made Sly and the Family Stone so great. Its innovative mix of funk, psychedelia, gospel and white pop is blended in with a nursery rhymey melody to sell – and reinforce – the simplicity of its call for harmony: a harmony that was reflected in the group’s very own make up. It may all seem a little naive now but back then this kind of stuff really needed saying.
And the genius of Sly and the Family Stone is that they understood that the medium can be the message. That is, if you’re going to preach about racial harmony and get a bit political, you need to sugar the pill a bit. In this case, the song’s utter infectiousness could wear down even the most hardened misanthrope.
Oh, and it has cowbells. I love cowbells.