My daughter likes to ask me when and where I’d go if I could travel to any time and place. I always tell her I’m happy right where I am, but here’s my secret: If suddenly I possessed such an awesome superpower I’d likely piss it away to land in Bethel, New York around 3:30 in the morning on Sunday, August 17.
Of course I’d also need a nice hotel nearby, a watermelon-sized Xanax, and some kind of magic bubble to keep me out of the crush of humanity in Yasgur’s pasture, but work with me here. What I’m trying to say is that if I could witness one Woodstock performance it wouldn’t be my beloved Who or Jimi Hendrix. No, I’d burn my time travel ticket on Sly & the Family Stone.
Nobody’s Woodstock set holds up as well as Sly’s, which might say something more about the universality of funk than anything specific about Sylvester Stewart. I don’t care if you’re a punk, headbanger, teenybopper, glam, mod, new romantic, teddy boy, rocker, or whatever listens to Justin Bieber, if I throw on “Sing a Simple Song” your ass is going to shake. I can’t say the same for the Grateful Dead’s “Mama Tried,” for example.
You probably know where Sly is these days, more or less. His stories of homelessness, drug abuse, erratic behavior, and financial meltdown are the stuff that tabloid news (also now called “news”) is made from.
Sly & the Family Stone’s complete set can be found on the CD Sly& the Family Stone: The Woodstock Experience, and of course whatever version of Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock documentary you pick up you’ll get lots of iconic Sly footage.
Here’s the Family Stone’s Woodstock set list:
2. Sing A Simple Song
3. You Can Make It If You Try
5. Love City
6. Dance To The Music
7. Music Lover
8. I Want To Take You Higher
Your official Woodstock soundtrack song count to date: 104
Update: On August 2, 2019, Rhino Records released Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive and changed the game forever. With exception to two Hendrix tracks and one Sha Na Na cut, the massive box set contains complete sets from every Woodstock artist—even those long believed lost or never recorded.
Here is Sly‘s set as it appears on the Back to the Garden archive, including announcements, etc.:
1. Chip Monck – “A little exercise”
3. “We have some equipment that is not working properly”
4. SING A SIMPLE SONG
5. YOU CAN MAKE IT IF YOU TRY
6. Medley: EVERYDAY PEOPLE/DANCE TO THE MUSIC/MUSIC LOVER/I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER
7. LOVE CITY
8. Chip Monck – “Get it out in all one big burst”
10. Chip Monck – “A wallet lost”