Sly & his Family Stone had tremendous cultural impact. While JB may have been doing "funk"...Sly created a new style of band oriented "funk"...before P-Funk hit big (I don't know if anyone recalls the me telling the story of a gig I was doing in Detroit late 67 or early 68... when the guys I knew as The Parlaiments who wore suits and ties showed up in the audience in full "flower children" garb as P-Funk...the Mothership landed)...but Slys biggest impact perhaps was the formation of a multi racial "funk" ensemble. No Sly....The Red Hot Chili Peppers, KC & The Sunshine Band, and many others take an entirely different direction. There just weren't many mixed racial bands back then...and I'm not talking about so called blue eyed soul bands...white musicians trying to sound black.
Let's not forget that Sly & The Family Stone's shift to funk signalled the symbolic end of the 60's hippy ideal. Every decade seems to have its symbolic end somehow - Buddy Holly dying, Presley in the Army, Little Richard giving up rock, Chuck Berry hauled off to jail and Jerry Lee Lewis blacklisted and the payola scandals all seeming to end the 50's. The 60's had deaths too - Hendrix, Joplin, Redding - plus the Beatles breaking up, Ross leaving the Supremes,. But the IMAGE of the 60's, particularly the late-60's, which has come to define the entire decade to a lot of people, that idyllic world where race isn't supposed to matter, gender isn't supposed to matter, everyone living in harmony, had two symbolic endings. The headline grabbing one was the Stones at Altamont, clearly. The musical one was Sly abandoning his early style (Hot Fun In The Sumemrtime almost seems like an archaic fading snapshot of the era, like a sendup of it almost) and then coming out with Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin, Don't Call Me Nigger Whitey and Family Affair where it was obvious the peace, love and flowers had turned nasty, bitter, hostile and suspicious.
And how did the 70's rock scene turn out? With segregated "formatted" radio, audiences splitting on racial, gender and stylistic lines, cynical and aggressive styles of music coming to the forefront and the drug culture going from the psychedelic mind-expanding possibilities to paranoia and self-indulgence. All eerily presaged by Sly.