Tales of Rock – Sly Stone

He became addicted to cocaine among other substances, and supposedly kept a violin case filled with drugs with him constantly.

Sly and the Family Stone’s first four albums were the work of a man in total control of his talents and craft. By the time of his band’s fourth album, the monumental Stand!, Sly Stone was applying remarkable discipline to his work: writing, performing on, producing and arranging all songs.

But with the massive success of Stand! and the band’s subsequent appearance at Woodstock came a big change in Stone and, as a result, his band. He became addicted to cocaine among other substances, and supposedly kept a violin case filled with drugs with him constantly. Stone’s Bel Air mansion took on a cult-like atmosphere, with Stone dispensing drugs to his fellow band members and assorted hangers-on.

Some of the band’s next album, There’s A Riot Goin’ On, was recorded in a home studio here, with Stone recording much of his vocals lying down. He’d also allow groupies to sing over the album’s tapes as “auditions,” then once he’d had his way with these women, send them on their way and wipe the tape. This eventually diluted the fidelity of the actual recordings themselves, contributing to the album’s murky sound. Given all this chaos, it’s a testament to Stone’s talents that the resulting album is still one of the greatest ever made.

Stone made a half-dozen further albums of varying quality after this; by the end of the ’70s he’d started giving them sad titles like “Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I’m Back and Back On The Right Track” and the songs contained within were largely lame retreads of his earlier material. In the 1980s, Sly basically disappeared. He’d pop up for an occasional live performance, cameo on someone else’s album or arrest for cocaine possession, but beyond that was rarely seen.

In the mid-2000s there were hints of a comeback; he appeared with his old band and other musicians for a tribute to Sly and the Family Stone at the 2006 Grammy awards, but Stone left the stage before the performance was over. In 2011, reports surfaced that Stone was homeless and living in a van in L.A. He was quoted as saying, “I like my small camper. I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place. I must keep moving.”

 

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Tales of Rock – James Brown Pulls a Shotgun on Someone for Using His Toilet

“Experimentation with drugs was more a qualification than a fire-able offense.”

Watching James Brown in action in video of his performances in the 1960s and ’70s, it’s difficult to imagine someone so assured and in control of himself and his band descending into drug-induced chaos. He even insisted his musicians remain drug-free, which alienated some, including Catfish and Bootsy Collins, who departed for Parliament-Funkadelic where experimentation with drugs was more a qualification than a fire-able offense.

But the ’80s took their toll on the “Soul Brother No. 1” as he started using PCP. He was arrested numerous times before, in 1988, he reportedly pulled a shotgun on a man for using the toilet in his office before fleeing, leading police on a chase near the border of Georgia and South Carolina. He was convicted of possession, driving under the influence, carrying an unlicensed pistol and assaulting a police officer and sentenced to six years in jail; released in three. He continued to have problems with the law for the last 15 years of his life, most often owing to charges of domestic violence.

His relationship with Adrienne Lois Rodriguez was insane. They met on the set of the TV show Solid Gold, on which Rodriguez worked as a hairstylist. Brown told Sharpton to get her number. The two fell in love, got married (she would be Brown’s third wife), and had a tumultuous relationship: They were both addicted to PCP; she called the cops on him a number of times for domestic violence; she once stabbed a woman in the butt who she thought was sleeping with Brown; she set his clothes on fire; she allegedly put PCP into his creamed corn. In 1996, she died after undergoing liposuction owing to a combination of PCP and prescription medications.

Brown kept up a rigorous tour schedule well into his 70s. His trumpeter Hollie Farris remembered they were doing a show in South America when the doctor gave him shots, put a catheter in him, only to take it out, do a one-and-a-half-hour show, and then come back and put the catheter back in. In another performance in Tbilisi, Georgia, Brown performed in a swimming facility with the stage at the edge of the pool. Brown jumped into the pool at the climax of “Sex Machine” and had to be fished out by his bandmates. He got back onstage and finished the song.

 

 

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Tales of Rock – Rick James Holds a Woman Hostage and Burns Her with a Crack Pipe

Charlie Murphy terms James “a habitual line stepper.”

Musicians’ drug problems are often rich sources of satire for comedians, but no one has ever been sent up as thoroughly and hysterically as Rick James. A 2004 episode of Chappelle’s Show saw Eddie Murphy’s older brother Charlie describing James’ antics during their long friendship as Dave Chappelle reenacted all this dressed as James. He’s depicted cavorting with loose women, licking their faces and rejecting their breasts; fucking up a couch; and punching and slapping Murphy in the face and in turn getting beat up repeatedly. Murphy terms James “a habitual line stepper,” and all the while the real Rick James appears intermittently to offer little more explanation for his behavior than “cocaine’s a hell of a drug.”

Of course in reality, James’ drug tales were much darker. In 1992, James and his girlfriend were accused of holding a woman hostage for a week, binding her, forcing her to perform sex acts and burning her with a crack pipe. In 1993, while out on bail for all this, the two did the same thing to a female music executive and were arrested again. James was found guilty of both offenses and sentenced to two years in prison; released in 1996. He later lost $2 million in a civil suit related to the case.

The same year the Chappelle’s Show episode dedicated to him aired, James died of heart failure. An autopsy found nine different drugs in his bloodstream when he died; a mixture of prescription and illegal drugs. Cocaine was one of them.

Super Freak.

 

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