How Drugs Ruined Sly Stone's Life

Sly and the Family Stone pioneered a new mix of funk, soul, and psychedelic rock in the 1960s and 70s, topping the charts with hits like "Dance to the Music," "I Want to Take You Higher," and others. And as the band gained popularity, it seemed that nothing would break the family up. As Sly told Rolling Stone in 1971: "If there was anything to be happy about, then everybody'd be happy about it. If there were a lot of songs to sing, then everybody got to sing. If we have something to suffer or a cross to bear — we bear it together."

But the optimism of the band's beginnings would deteriorate as the funk star who gave us such classics as "Everyday People" and "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" sank further into his addiction to drugs, which all but destroyed his career. His first manager, David Kapralik, told People magazine that cocaine seemed to split the funk singer down the middle. "His two personas—the shy, innocent poet Sylvester Stewart and the streetwise character he invented, Sly Stone—were torn apart. He numbed himself with cocaine."

Sly Stone's decades of continued drug use

As Sly Stone continued to use cocaine, he continued to spiral downward, the drug affecting his work. When he and the Family Stone were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the band had to play their hit songs without him, as he didn't show up onstage—not, that is, until the award was handed out.

Unfortunately, Stone's drug use has continued to negatively affect his music. Billboard reported in 2003 that Stone was notably a no-show when the band got back together for the first time in 32 years. But even after decades of missing gigs and having onstage meltdowns, the members of his funky family remained understanding and hopeful that he could get his problem worked out. Drummer Greg Errico told the magazine that he kept Sly's seat warm, "and whenever he wants to come sit in it, he's more than welcome. But he's been a recluse for the last 20 years or so ... I don't understand it. Your guess is as good as mine."

And we may have to keep guessing. He failed to accept Errico's invitation to clean up his act and get back together with the band, and in 2011, Rolling Stone reported that Sly Stone was living in a van in Los Angeles, "following a long downward spiral of drug abuse and financial mismanagement."