Stylistics – People Make the World Go Round


The stylin’ Stylistics


Listen – People Make the World Go Round MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope the mid-week finds you well, and that you’ve been grooving to Monday’s edition of Funky16Corners Radio.
I’ve wanted to post today’s selection for a while. In fact, I had the longer LP version of this song ripped and ready to go months ago, and ended up putting it onto the back burner. Then, while I was in the midst of my vacation digs, I happened upon the 45, and decided I was feeling the truncated version a bit more, so that’s what I ended up going with.
The early 70’s AM radio days of my childhood were verily filled with the sounds of sweet Philly soul. In the first few years when I had a radio glued to my ear – roundabout 1972 to 1974 – there was hardly an edition of the Top 10 that didn’t include something fine from Philly, or at least something influenced by those sounds. One of the groups that rest securely in my memory is the Stylistics.
‘You Are Everything’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’ were both HUGE records, crossing over as major pop hits, led by the trademark falsetto of Russell Thompkins Jr. Ironically enough, I was oblivious to today’s selection (which was a Top 40 hit) until I heard it on the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s ‘Crooklyn’, and promptly fell in love with it.
Written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed ‘People Make the World Go Round’ – which appeared on the Stylistics debut LP in 1972 – is a classic of socially conscious soul, with a twist.
The songs lyrics point fingers at opposite ends of the economic spectrum, taking shots at labor unions (trash collectors and bus drivers in particular) and moving on to attack Wall Street and cigar chomping moguls who blame their troubles on hippies. The chorus:

But that’s what makes the world go `round
The up and down, the carousel
Changing people, they’ll go around
Go underground, young man
People make the world go `round

..seems to take a kind of resigned, “it takes all kinds” tack, but then drops in the surprising suggestion to “Go underground, young man”.
While the vast majority of those caught up in the idealistic movements of the 60’s had given up dabbling in serious pursuits, moving from dilettante activism to get lost in a sea of new agery, or throwing away all the trappings of the Aquarian Age to assimilate entirely into suburbia, there were those, no longer willing to settle for non-violent protest, turned to setting bombs and robbing armored cars.
Though an initial reading of the lyrics suggests a tone of resignation, that one line of the chorus points in another direction entirely, giving the song a sharp edge that stands in stark contrast to the musical background.
The arrangement by Thom Bell sounds like the product of a summit meeting between Burt Bacharach and Norman Whitfield. The opening of the record, with blowing wind and tinkling wind chimes, is suddenly interrupted by deep, resonant electric piano chords and sweeping strings. The hiss of a hi-hat trades off with marimba as Thompkins begins the verse, all of it accented with a horn chart that sounds as if it were lifted from a late 60’s Bacharach session.
It really is a singularly unusual record, both for the times, and for the Stylistics discography.
If the song is new to you, I hope you dig it.
If you already know it, I hope you dig hearing it again.

13 Responses to “Stylistics – People Make the World Go Round”

  1. slsmithsr Says:

    “Changing people, they’ll go around”

    I’ve always sung this part of the chorus as: “Chaging people’s heads around..go underground, young man.”

    But anyway! Check out the Milt Jackson SUNFLOWER lp. He does a baddddd instrumental version of this song.

  2. Eugene Says:

    There’s a cool instrumental version of this tune improvised in the jam on Disc 3, Track 4 of the Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders Band “Live at the Keystone” CD released as a part of the “Pure Jerry” series. This was basically the funky jazz-rock band “Legion of Mary” with Jerry, Merl Saunders, bassist John Kahn, & saxophonist Martin Fierro, from 1974.
    Here’s a link to the CD on Jerry’s site:

    Martin is a good friend (“the Meester” introduced me to my wife!) and he tells me that no one else in the Jerry camp could remember what that jam was when they remixed and released this. . . thankfully Martin remembered. Jerry and John are no longer with us; Merl had a severe stroke; so Martin is the last of the bunch. They pull influences from all over the map.
    Meester Fierro just played a 2-hour set with Banyan last Friday (Stephen Perkins from Janes Addiction, Willie Waldman from Snoop Dogg’s band, Rob Wasserman from Bob Weir’s band, Steve Kimock, and Melvin Seals on the B3 from the Jerry Garcia Band). It was 100% improv jamming, and quite funky . . . keeping the tradition alive through new generations.

  3. tgrundy Says:

    Larry: Love this song and this group. Always admire how you wax poetic about the music, the artists and your personal recollections about them both.

    We must be on the same musical wavelength this week as The Stylistics are one of the featured groups in my weekly “Triple Play Thurs-Day” playlist/mix I just posted today on Rhythms In Black Satin.

  4. olo Says:

    thanks for the fantastic blogwork you’re doin’!!! it’s still in my top3 blogs list. 😉 i hadn’t commented before, but i LOVE this particular track (and all the other versions (that i know of) too) – thanks for having it. peace, olo.
    btw – must check out that milt’s instrumental, thx slsmithsr!

  5. ally Says:

    mighty choice maestro

  6. Brother Wetlands Says:

    I’d been trying to whistle this tune to friends for months, hoping that someone could name the track, all to no avail! Finally, crate digging yesterday, I happened upon the Pharoahs instrumental version and was able to get the details I needed. Now I’ve just got to pick out my favourite version……

  7. musicman 74 Says:

    Damn’, the 5 brothers in that image look so sharp, man.
    And their faces are so funny.
    And the tune is sooo smoooth.
    Definitely makes MY world go round.
    and round and round.

    Keep ’em coming.

  8. Mark Says:

    Check out Carl Craig’s version on the Innerzone Orchestra’s – Programmed album.


  9. Talma Iv Says:

    The Stylistics original group of AIRRION LOVE and G+HERB MURRELL, is the greatest group of the world.

  10. Talma Iv Says:

    The Stylistics original group of AIRRION LOVE and HERB MURRELL, is the greatest group of the world. I LOVE AIRRION LOVE VELVET VOICE.

  11. Talma Iv Says:

    Airrion Love is the most beautiful and sexy voice of the musical world.
    I love The Stylistics

  12. JD Long Says:

    I’m looking for the instrumental version that is all guitar. It’s very crisp and clear and moody. No other instruments in it that I can tell. Anyone out there know who might have done it? Thanks for any help.

  13. ‘PEOPLE MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND’ by the STYLISTICS - The Public Interest : WTVC Says:

    […] Details on the song here. […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: