Train in Vain

Why would an artist as musically conscious as The Artist sell out Sly for Graham? Spiritual kinship, for one. Long opposed to both violence and substance abuse, The Artist undoubtedly has a hard time identifying with Sly, a dark-star hedonist who vanished inside the black seam of Seventies-era Los Angeles and never returned. Graham, on the other hand, is a Jehovah's Witness who spends his time talking about the glory and clarity of God, an obsession that no doubt appeals to The Artist. On a TV appearance last year on Sinbad's VIBE, Graham practiced a little propheteering, explaining how he led The Artist's camp in regular Bible study. His spiritual guidance even prompted The Artist to change the title of the powerful 1987 ballad "The Cross" to the ham-fisted "The Christ," and to perform in front of a banner that read "Stauros," which is the Greek word for cross. United in God, Graham and The Artist have no time or tolerance for human weakness. And Sly is nothing if not an example of human weakness. (These days, of course, he is said to be holed up in L.A., hard at work on a comeback album with producer Jerry Goldstein, but that's been the rumor since 1991.)

The Artist's liner notes aren't the only place that Sly's getting slighted. Most of the Jam of the Year tours include a segment in which Graham steps to the microphone and launches into a medley of Sly and the Family Stone hits. At Madison Square Garden last September, Graham reminisced about the last time "his band" had played those songs in New York City. "It was more than 25 years ago," he said. "We're happy to be back," he said. "I want to take you higher," he sang. "I am everyday people," he sang. He didn't mention Sly's name. Not even once.

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