15 Oct 2013
- Written by Tony Jones
Pop culture writer Ericka Blount Danois' book about "Soul Train" makes you want to grab a bowl of ice cream and cookies (or yogurt and fruit considering the book's generation's age), call up an old friend and have a long, bounding conversation about the good old times and the beauty of youth.
Entitled "Love, Peace, and SOUL: Behind The Scenes Of America's Favorite Dance Show –Soul Train: Classic Moments," Danois' naturally flowing style brings all the beauty, fun, love, drama and tears of a family reunion without the messy cleanup. A must have for African-American homes and anyone interested in African-American culture.
Baby Boomers beware. Trying to recreate the dance moves that electrified America when "Soul Train" boomed across the nation could be hazardous to your health.
Danois will be in Memphis on Saturday (Oct. 19), signing copies of her book at the Stax Museum. No confirmation – yet – of a "Soul Train" line.
"Love, Peace and Soul" crisply pinpoints that "Soul Train" delivered a sustained testament that Black America was no long willing to accept boundaries. Danois salutes its creator, Don Cornelius, as a giant of our times, recalling on page 20 that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once visited the headquarters of Soul Train's sponsor, Johnson Products, and declared, "Now, this is black power."
Cornelius's hard-won snaring of Afro Sheen's producers catapulted the company into becoming the first black-owned firm on the New York Stock exchange. His own well-coiffed crown became a universally recognized symbol of the product's effectiveness.
Danois' behind-the-scenes pursuit charts "Soul Train's" cultural impact. It is dotted with reminisces of the artists and guests and dutifully notes a string of off-camera careers that grew or expanded because of the show.
The book respectfully illuminates Cornelius's tragic suicide, sharing stories of the persona that many of us never would have imagined coming to such a painful end. It details his relationship with the infamous Dick Griffey, with whom Cornelius partnered to establish Solar Records, jumping away before Shalamar, Lakeside, The Gap Band and Midnight Star turned the label into the new Motown.
And rap's emergence, leading to the need to create the iconic Soul Train Awards, is in there too.
The book's best recollection, however, is how the Soul Train dancers invented a fresh perspective for generations of black youth by simply letting us be what we wanted to be. At least for a moment, every weekend, on mostly black-and-white television sets, the slogan "black is beautiful" became an attainable truth without restraint.