According to reports, funk singer Sly Stone of Sly and The Family Stone is homeless and living out of his van. Apparently his money woes began back in 1989 when he signed a “bad” contract with his manager Jerry Goldstein where Jerry would collect the royalties, do the legwork and then issue Sly a weekly check. The problems continued when Michael Jackson purchased his publishing rights for $1 million in 1984 back when Michael was on a buying frenzy that then graduated with buying The Beatles publishing rights from underneath Paul McCartney‘s nose.
Then it proceeded to get worse when Sly released this year’s album I’m Back! Family and Friends which essentially was yet another greatest hits collection with a couple of new songs. It flopped if for no other reason that funk fanatics awaiting his new material were essentially fed up with supporting different versions of the same songs.
As you can see from these photos taken by John Chapple from the New York Post, Sly Stone is now living out of a Winnebago as his money woes have pushed him out of his Napa Valley home and into homelessness. The entire situation is very sad, since Sly has always been very generous to his friends giving them cars and cash and now those friends seem to have disappeared. A phenomenon that’s been told, sung and rapped about for many years by many artists of the mysterious phantom friends that appear when you have money and then vanish when you don’t.
Needless to say, none of this is really surprising given that part of Sly’s demise is self inflicted with his constant drug use, refusal to write any new material, refusal to do interviews, refusal to play any live shows with cohesive performances, and the outright disdain for, well, everyone. While we’ve accepted his musical genius and the quirks that come with that genius, he has to alter his reality if he plans to come out the other end. We do not want to read about finding him dead in his van a couple of months down the road and his current outlook isn’t bright and cheery.
He has requested to do more work, however, telling press, “Let these guys know, like Lady Gaga, let me come in, just let me come in and pay me if you like it.”, he requests. If he has so much to offer, where was it when his new album was in the works for almost 20 years? It’s just a shame that he has to be, as The Fixx so eloquently put it years ago, saved by zero. If his hitting rock bottom is his motivation for writing new material, then so be it. He simply can’t expect that royalties from songs that are now over 4 decades old will continue to pay the bills.
He is currently suing Jerry Goldstein for $50 million as a result of mismanagement of those royalties and while we hope his legal battles are warranted, the public has only seen his undoing at the slight of his own hands. We wish him the best, but part of that process is going to be to repair things internally or else he’ll be right back in his Winnebago. We only want the best for Sly, but he needs to get better and he needs to face up to his realities.