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Sly Stone, one of the pioneers of funk music as mastermind for Sly and the Family Stone, is now homeless and living out of a white van in Los Angeles. The music legend, according to the New York Post, has been grappling with the loss of his fortune due to substance abuse, mismanagement and a life of excess.
Stone, now 68, is suing his manager Jerry Goldstein for $50 million, alleging fraud and 20 years of stolen royalty payments. Stone says he was tricked into signing a contract with Goldstein in 1989, which gave his manager control of his finances. His financial woes are also in part due to a 1984 deal where he sold his music publishing rights to Michael Jackson for a reported $1 million.
Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Stone lived in a 5,432-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills, hosting parties for other music legends including Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Etta James and Miles Davis. He collected automobiles, such as a purple Jaguar XKE, Hummers, a London taxi and a gold Studebaker (Stone asked the NY Post to pay for painting the car in exchange for their interview, a request the Post says it denied).
Four years ago he moved into a Napa Valley house he rented with money from a 2007 European tour. But his financial problems forced him out of the home into cheap hotels, until finally he moved into his white camper in 2009.
“I like my small camper,” Stone told the Post. “I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place. I must keep moving.”
Stone — whose band had three No. 1 singles with “Everyday People,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” and “Family Affair” — parks his van on a residential street in L.A.’s rough Crenshaw neighborhood. A retired couple allows Stone to shower at their house and makes sure he eats, while their son serves as his assistant and driver. He continues to record music on a laptop computer, from inside the walls of his home on wheels.
Earlier this year, Stone released an album of his hits that he had re-recorded with other artists. He has recorded hundreds of new songs inside his van but is wary of record companies and managers and deals that could send him deeper into his financial hole.
“My music is a format that will encourage you to have a song you won’t forget,” Stone says. “That’s why I got so much money, that there are so many people around, and that’s why I am in court. Millions of dollars! But now please tell everybody, please, to give me a job, play my music. I’m tired of all this shit, man.”
Stone has been out of the public eye since 2006, when he appeared onstage during a Grammy tribute with a medley of his hits. That was his first performance in 19 years, but Stone says he is ready to make a comeback, should today’s artists want to work with him.
“It will feel good to step onstage,” he says. “I see all the guys playing those old songs. Let these guys know, like Lady Gaga, let me come in, just let me come in and pay me if you like it.”
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