This is the 81st post in a weekly series. Read about it here and see the list of previous songs here. A new post about a different song is posted each Monday. You can listen to the songs in a Spotify playlist.
Before 1969, Sly and the Family Stone’s biggest hit was “Dance to the Music,” which had reached Number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
With the release of “Stand!,” Sly Stone and his band entered a new era. The album was immensely popular, peaking at Number 13 on Hot 200. The single “Everyday People,” which reached Number 1 on the Hot 100. That same year, the band played Woodstock. But besides ushering in fame and attention, “Stand!” also signaled a more political tone for Sly and the Family Stone. There was social commentary throughout the record, but probably the hardest to miss was the straightforward “Don’t Call Me N*****, Whitey.”
It was two years before Sly and the Family Stone released another new album, but that album, “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” had none of the cheerful sounds that had defined the previous records. Jason Ankeny of Allmusic called it “bleakly unsettling,” “dark,” and “militant.” Ankeny said band’s shift happened in part because “the utopian ideals of the ’60s gave way to the paranoia and corruption of the ’70s.” But beyond that, Ankeny mused, “Stone’s grim world view was due in no small part to his increasing narcotics problem, and he became notorious for arriving late to live gigs or missing shows altogether.”
But between “Stand!” and “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” Sly and the Family Stone released two songs that bridged the gap between the band’s celebratory beginning and more somber next chapter: “Everybody Is a Star” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” Both appeared on the 1970 “Greatest Hits” album even though neither had appeared on previous records.
In the lyrics for “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” Stone referenced “Dance to the Music,” “Everyday People,” “Sing a Simple Song,” and the band’s cover of Ted Jarrett’s “You Can Make It If You Try”:
Dance to the music, all nite long
Everyday people, sing a simple song
Mama’s so happy, Mama start to cry
Papa still singin’, you can make it if you try
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” released as a single with “Everybody Is A Star,” spent 13 weeks on the Hot 100, peaking at Number 1. It was the band’s second single to hit Number 1. The third and final Sly and the Family Stone single to hit Number 1 was “Family Affair,” released in 1971.
Beyond the song’s chart success, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” was memorable for Larry Graham’s bass technique. Writer Ricky Vincent later wrote that “perhaps more than any other record, ‘Thank You’ introduced the Decade of Funk.” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” was covered throughout that “Decade of Funk,” and many times since then.
Maceo & All the Kings Men covered “Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself Again” in 1970, making it even funkier than the original. The band accomplished that by taking out most of the lyrics, replacing the verses with meandering instrumental interludes.
Funk flautist Joe Thomas, who had critical acclaim with “Funky Fever” and “Plato’s Retreat,” covered “Thank You (Fall Etin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)” in 1972. This instrumental veered near and far from the source material throughout, but what was surprising was how commanding the flute could be as the centerpiece of a song that had originally been driven by brass horns and bass.
Gladys Knight & The Pips’ cover of “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)” appeared on 1973’s “All I Need Is Time.” Though faithful to the original, The Pips’ version was a little lighter and a little brisker, but just as funky.
In the hands of English post-punk band Magazine, “Thank You (Faletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” became a slowed-down blues jam. The bass line was just as important to this version as the original, though in the absence of the colorful horns, the bass and guitar sounded more noticeable.
Disco/funk band KC and The Sunshine Band’s cover of “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” played up the bass that had defined the original and gave more polish to the horn sound. But otherwise, it was more of a tribute to the original rather than a new interpretation.
Shango was a group formed by Afrika Bambaataa as an interpretation of the “meaning, tradition and practice of funk.” Appearing on “Shango Funk Theology” in 1984, “Thank You” was an update, rather than a reinterpretation: The same funky groove was there, just with a more polished ’80s sound.
But the ’80s updates added by Shango were subtle compared to those added by Charlie Singleton & Modern Man. The cover of “Thank You (Falletinmebemicelfagain)” that appeared on “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained” can serve as a time capsule demonstrating some trends of the late ’80s: samples, drum machines, splashy keyboards, computerized voices, and attempts to sound like Prince with a high-pitched “oooh” or a “wheeee.”
Dr. John covered “Thank You (Falletin Me be Mice Elf Again)” for his 1994 album, “Television.” Whereas Sly Stone punctuated each of the words, Dr. John let them spill out of his mouth like some amorphous material. That’s his style on most songs, but that especially is noticeable when comparing his cover to the other versions.
At a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event in Cleveland in the mid-’90s, George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars performed “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” onstage with bassist Larry Graham. Before the song, Graham expressed gratitude both to the Hall of Fame and to Clinton. It was a faithful rendition, but there was no need to reinvent the wheel when playing with the bassist who helped make the song a masterpiece in the first place.
Barry White covered the song for his 1999 album, “Staying Power.” Puff Daddy produced the track, which was White’s way of thanking fans for making his 1994 album “The Icon Is Love” a commercial success. The Bone Thugs N Harmony rap interlude aside, it sounded like a classic White song, which is to say that he can take any lyrics and make them sound seductive.
Jazz pianist Michael Wolff included a “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” cover on his 2000 album, “Impure Thoughts.” At six minutes long, this was a meandering slow burn, as it took Wolff almost two minutes to get to the familiar riff of the song. He spent the rest of the song veering away from and returning to the basic structure of the song.
Long as that song was, though, Victor Wooten stretched out the song to make it even longer. The 2001 album “Live In America” featured Wooten playing with a host of famous musicians. On “If You Want Me to Stay/Thank You (Fallentin Me Be Mice Elf Agin),” Wooten toggled between the two songs as if he were just hanging out in his living room jamming with friends. Which, in a way, was true. He just had a large audience singing along, that’s all.
English R&B and hip-hop group Big Brovaz covered “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again)” for the 2004 soundtrack for “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.” We can’t say whether the movie was any good, but the song was a fresh update: save for the chorus, most of the original lyrics were replaced with rap verses.
“Shrek The Third” featured a “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again)” cover performed by Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas as their characters Donkey and Puss in Boots, respectively. That gimmick lasts longer than you’d expect, if for no other reason than for the fact that at one point in the song, Murphy-as-Donkey chants “Put your hooves together, put your hooves together!”
Dave Matthews Band has appeared in several posts, and I’m not convinced that he hasn’t covered 90 percent of recorded music. He has toured relentlessly, releasing several shows and recordings. “DMB Live Trax Vol. 13,” released in 2008, featured a sprawling “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)” cover that spanned nearly nine minutes. It sounds like what you’d expect Dave Matthews playing for nine minutes would sound like: Depending on your opinion of the band, this track is either too short or too long. And then there will be some of you who might think that a nine-minute-long Dave Matthews track is 10 minutes too long.
Seal is probably best remembered for his work in the ’90s, particularly “Kiss from a Rose,” “Crazy” and “Prayer for the Dying.” But he’s continued recording, and has recorded several covers of R&B, funk, and soul staples. His booming delivery on “Thank You” might sound more forceful to those who only know him for his ballads. And by “booming,” I mean he spent most of the song screaming over blasting horns.
Hulk Hogan’s daughter Brooke Hogan released her own cover in 2009, called “Thank U 4 Lettin’ Me B Mah Self.” In Brooke Hogan’s version, the song seemed to tell the story of her problems with the paparazzi while visiting her brother Nick Bollea in jail. In May 2008, Nick Bollea pleaded no contest to reckless driving. He served 166 days in the Pinellas County Jail.
The 2010 album “Live At The Forum” compiled performances by The Jackson 5 from concerts in the early ’70s. Before going into fast-paced and funky version of “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” a young Michael Jackson dedicated the performance to Diana Ross.
Released in 2014, “Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path” was a 3-CD Soundgarden compilation of rarities, live tracks, and unreleased material. On “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” the band built up a slow momentum until the last minute, which is when Chris Cornell shrieked the title repeatedly over a wall of drums and guitar.
Most of these covers were faithful to the original. Magazine’s version might have sounded the most noticeably different, but even that cover mirrored the structure of the original. Which is not to say that none of these artists managed to make the song their own. Beyond Magazine’s deconstructed version, the versions by Soundgarden and Dr. John had the hallmarks of each respective artist.
This is not the first song I’ve reviewed where most of the covers are similar to the source material. The covers of “Roadrunner,” “Kids In America,” and “It’s Raining Men” were also close to their respective originals. And that’s OK; all of these songs have been hailed, in one way or another, as being prototypes or iconic examples of specific genres. The covers might not reinterpret the original, but that might be because these songs are near perfect as it is. Why reinvent the song when you can just pay tribute to it instead?