Author: Ericka Blount Danois
Publisher: Backbeat Books
Format: Paperback (243 pages), Kindle Ed.
Release date: August 1, 2013
If you want to journey back to “the land of bell-bottoms, afros, and soul power” then jump on board the Soul Train for the hippest trip in America, with Ericka Blount Danois as your guide. For her book Love, Peace and Soul, Danois interviewed over 100 singers, dancers and music executives affiliated with Soul Train. The result is a penetrating glimpse inside the empire of Don Cornelius, “one of the coolest cats on television” in the 1970s and the man responsible for creating a cultural phenomenon that is revered to this day.
Danois traces Cornelius’s formative years at Chicago radio station WVON and draws insightful parallels between his radio experience and his concept for creating a black version of American Bandstand, such as transferring the rhyming style of black deejays to television and continuing their tradition of “edutainment” by inviting political figures such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson on the show. But more crucial to the success of Soul Train was its focus on dance. Cornelius scouted clubs to find the best dancers in the nation—Damito Jo Freeman, Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones, Don “Campbellock” Campbell, Tyrone “The Bone” Proctor, Patricia “Madame Butterfly” Davis, Rosie Perez, and Leo “Fluky Luke” Williams, among others—whose choreography would influence artists ranging from Madonna to Michael Jackson. As a result, not only was the show wildly successful, but its cultural impact was enormous.
For over thirty years, Soul Train exposed all of American, black and white, to black artists and music (soul, funk, R&B and later hip hop), black fashion, Afrocentric messaging, and the latest dance moves straight from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. As one of the first unapologetically black shows, it paved the way for BET, gave worldwide exposure to black artists, and trained hundreds of African Americans who worked behind the scenes in television production and marketing.
Regrettably, Cornelius’s tragic death occurred just as Danois was beginning her research, but Love, Peace and Soul is a fine tribute to his genius and uncompromising ideals. Fans will also appreciate the appendix with a complete list of episodes— beginning with the first show that aired in Chicago on October 2, 1971, through the final syndicated show on September 20, 2008.
This book is the perfect gift for any baby boomer looking for a little Love! Peace! and Sooooooouuuul for the holidays.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss