Daily Press (Sunday)

Stone takes readers higher in memoir

- — Andrew DeMillo, Associated Press

Sly Stone’s new memoir, co-written with Ben Greenman, overflows with wit and wordplay befitting a maestro whose funkiest song with his band the Family Stone was “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” — also the title of the book.

Stone, now 80, clearly recalls his early and evolving vision of a no-barriers style of music that would meld Motown pop-soul, James Brown’s funk, R&B, gospel and psychedeli­c rock. Shortly after forming in 1966, Sly and the Family Stone produced a string of sunny hits, including “Everyday People,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Stand!”

Stone’s band included Black and white musicians while featuring women not just singing but playing instrument­s — a rarity at the time. A triumphant set at Woodstock and a star turn in the subsequent film of the concert made him a household name.

Stone’s music took a darker and more cynical turn as drugs took hold and the dream of the ’60s devolved into political assassinat­ions, racial strife and lingering war in Vietnam.

The memoir contains no shortage of occasional­ly humorous — but mostly bleak — backstage tales of debauchery and drug abuse. While on tour, Stone carried a violin case filled with cocaine. Eventually he was overtaken by a dependence on crack cocaine that drained his talents, ruined relationsh­ips and led to regular stints in jail and rehab.

Fans will certainly appreciate the vivid accounts from recording studios, concert stages and star-studded parties.

But readers looking for personal insights will come away disappoint­ed. Stone is self-aware but not particular­ly self-reflective.

However, even during his gloomiest days, Stone said he relied on his compositio­ns to keep the darkness out, always remaining true to “the larger idea of music as a spiritual force.”

— Christophe­r Weber, Associated Press

In “Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded

Ina Divided America,” Steve Inskeep is taking on one of the most challengin­g tasks for a biographer by profiling the nation’s 16th president.

There’s little new to be said or explored about Lincoln that’s not already covered in the massive pile of biographie­s already out there. But Inskeep, cohost of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” tries an approach that illuminate­s Lincoln’s political skill and details how much it was a part of the late president’s legacy and character.

As Inskeep puts it, “Lincoln preserved the country and took part in a social revolution because he engaged in politics.”

Inskeep illustrate­s that political skill by focusing on 16 encounters Lincoln had throughout his lifetime. They include wellknown figures in Lincoln’s

political upbringing, such as William Seward, George McClellan and Frederick Douglass. Even though these chapters tread familiar ground, Inskeep manages to adeptly use them to show how Lincoln’s mastery of politics adapted and evolved throughout his career.

But the most compelling chapters profile lesserknow­n figures and their connection­s to Lincoln. They include Mary Ellen Wise, who disguised her gender to serve as a Union soldier and confronted Lincoln to collect her back pay. As Inskeep recounts, Lincoln ensured Wise got her pay and the president also got news coverage that reinforced him as a man of the people.

In the last chapter, Inskeep uses Lincoln’s at-times fraught marriage with Mary Todd to show how his rocky home life helped prepare him for leading a country during the Civil War. “The skills he needed at home resembled some he needed for work,” Inskeep writes.

The brisk biography, filled with lively anecdotes and interestin­g analysis, offers more than enough to stand out among recent additions to the collection of Lincoln profiles.

 ?? ?? ‘THANK YOU (FALETTINME BE MICE ELF AGIN)’ By Sly Stone with Ben Greenman; AUWA, 320 pages, $30.
‘THANK YOU (FALETTINME BE MICE ELF AGIN)’ By Sly Stone with Ben Greenman; AUWA, 320 pages, $30.
 ?? ?? ‘DIFFER WE MUST’ By Steve Inskeep; Penguin Press, 352 pages, $30.
‘DIFFER WE MUST’ By Steve Inskeep; Penguin Press, 352 pages, $30.

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