The Austin Chronicle

Rock & Roll Books

Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, December 5, 2008, Music

I Want To Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & The Family Stone

by Jeff Kaliss
Backbeat Books, 210 pp., $24.95

In his classic book Mystery Train, rock critic Greil Marcus brilliantly integrated Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone, into the deeper fabric of Americana by suggesting that the creatively outsized, eccentric superstar was a latter-day incarnation of the folk antihero Stagerlee. It's taken more than 30 years since then for this first full-blown biography of Sly & the Family Stone to appear, but its brevity makes it read more like a primer than a deep study of this mercurial character and his daunting, biracial musical family. The basic story of how the Denton-born musician rose from modest, churchgoing beginnings to the pinnacle of artistic and financial success only to become the poster child for an overindulgent, drug-fueled fall is a quintessentially American tale. Unfortunately, the book breezes through every aspect of its subject's life. Had author Jeff Kaliss concentrated more intently on Stone's fascinating rise to fame within the social turbulence of the times, the creative process in making the music, and, at its zenith, the extraordinary impact said music delivered across the social and cultural landscape, this could have been a terrific book. Despite landing a couple of bizarre interviews with Stone, this bio leaves us wanting much more.

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