Cynthia Robinson has died of cancer, aged 69. When I was a kid I was mesmerized by her, with the Angela Davis afro and dashiki, playing the trumpet and screaming 'get on up...and dance to the music!'
When she answered the immortal line 'Cynthia and Jerry got a message they're sayin'' with another screaming 'all the squares...fall out!' I would feel like I ought to leave the room. Not that you had to: Sly were multi-racial, blended styles of music together, everything from soul to protest, and Cynthia was like a tower of strength in the background. Who was I to argue with her?
Sly and the Family Stone were previewing the entire decade of the 70s, only this was 1968. It wasn't just the sound: though Larry Graham's slap bass was imitated in funk everywhere, and it's hard to think of Issac Hayes without hearing Freddie Stone's guitar. It was the way they looked: Sly costumed them in the same way Village People would be costumed: remember Graham's three-musketeer hat? or Vet Stone's silver wig? But he claimed the flashiest pioneering pimp rig, the one that would become de rigeur for the entire funky 70s, for himself. Don't you think George Clinton picked up a bit of inspiration here?
Of course Sly pioneered the destruction via drugs of the 70s too: he moved to LA and the band went down the pipe. Cynthia was part of what always held the various splinter and spin-off versions together, and she never had bad words about Sly, who fathered one of her children. She was some kind of powerful, and some kind of wonderful. RIP.