In the late '60s and early '70s, Larry Graham's bass guitar powered the psychedelic funk of Sly and The Family Stone. There's no understating the groundbreaking bottom end he brought to those records - particularly a unique style of playing he helped perfect, something he called "thumpin' and pluckin'" but known to most players today as slap bass.
It's ironic, then, that one of his most successful singles almost traded out the funk entirely for a more straightforward soul approach. That song, of course, was "One in a Million You," the title track to his 1980 solo album. It was technically Graham's first strictly solo outing, after seven albums as the frontman of Graham Central Station, the ensemble he fronted after departing Sly and The Family Stone.
While those records kept up Graham's funk quotient, "One in a Million You," a Sam Dees-penned ballad, was a stark departure from what audiences would normally expect - something that made Warner Bros. Records a little skittish. "All of my records were mostly funk oriented, so I know that made them a little nervous," Graham recalled in 2010. "But I had the right to choose the single, and thatâ's the one I felt in my heart was the one...The end result was everybody got a chance, or more people got a chance, to hear that side of me which was really going back to the times when my mother and I performed together, because she would always have me singing ballads. So when I did 'One in a Million You,' I was really going back to something that I've always been comfortable with."
The gamble paid off: "One in a Million You" reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending Sept. 20, 1980. It's still Graham's highest-charting single, and one that established his credentials as more than just a master of funk.