Yesterday, I saw the news that Cynthia Robinson had died at 69. She was one of the creative forces behind Sly and the Family Stone, the first black female trumpeter to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (not that there’s an extensive list of black female trumpeters out there, but maybe there should be).
One of the things I’ve always liked about Sly and the Family Stone is that it’s an ensemble, each member of the band playing an important, integral role to the music. Yes, Sly himself was the star–and rightfully so, given his talent and charisma. But he knew that the band worked best as a band. Cynthia Robinson opens up the classic “Dance to the Music” with her strong voice, helping create the sense of joy that permeates that song, but then blends seamlessly into the whole. That doesn’t make her presence less important; it highlights her skill as a musician.
I really like this clip of the band playing “Than You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” because it highlights the groupness of this group. Everyone shines for just a moment or two, and you can see Cynthia rockin’ and funkin’ it up with one of the finest horn sections in music history. The quality of the clip isn’t great, but the music shines through.