Find out the behind the scenes story of America's favorite dance show
I grew up loving music and not understanding how to live without it. That's still true today. My father was a deejay, a record collector, a club-head, and a music junkie who, like me, could not live without regular doses of funk, soul, jazz and hip-hop. I came by my addiction honestly.
I learned how to cook and clean while watching my mother perform those duties while she was listening to Chaka Khan, LaBelle, Carla Thomas, and Sam Cooke. I heard the latest 12 inch singles when she and my father came home from dancing in clubs, like the Clubhouse in D.C., or the Garage in New York City. Even our cats, Bootsy and Starchild, were so named because we were a funk addicted crew.
I helped my father work the spotlight at the Parliament-Funkadelic show when he worked as stage hand, and met artists up close and personal when there were in-store signings at Kemp Mill Records where he worked as a manager. Even with this background of funk, soul, jazz, and all things in between, it did not adequately prepare me for the introduction to Don Cornelius' Soul Train. I took the trip with him every Saturday, dancing, watching, and absorbing. Through that exposure I learned about our struggle, our progressive politics, our fashion, our love and our community.
Last August 2011, I signed a book contract to write the behind-the-scenes story of the television show Soul Train, hosted by the late Don Cornelius. When I set out to write the book tentatively titled, Love, Peace and Soouuul! I was frustrated and disappointed by the fact that there were five different books about the history of American Bandstand, but not one popular book about the history of Soul Train. Given the show’s unique history as one of the first television showcases for African American artists, the longest running first-run syndicated show in television history, and given its track record for helping to catapult artists and dancers to stardom, I thought that this was a huge travesty and sought to do something about it.
As I interviewed artists for the book, Don Cornelius passed under tragic circumstances. The urgency of this history became clearer. I attended Don’s funeral in Los Angeles. There, I saw the stricken look on gospel star Donnie McClurkin’s face as he painfully talked about his plans to attend Whitney Houston’s funeral the next day. We are losing our true artists and music luminaries. In just 12 months, we lost Gil Scott-Heron, Etta James, Don Cornelius, Whitney Houston, Dick Clark, Teena Marie, Johnny Otis, Robin Gibb, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Chuck Brown, Donna Summer, and Hal Jackson.
I hope you’ll agree that the need to tell our stories is as urgent as it ever was. I created this Kickstarter.com drive to address that urgent need and to tell the story about Don Cornelius and his one-of-a-kind creation that helped define African American and American culture for over thirty decades.
Eventually I joined my two passions: music and writing. I began my career as a stringer at the Philadelphia Tribune with a cover story on the king of Philadelphia International Records, Kenny Gamble. I graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and have worked as a staff writer, editor, freelancer, and stringer for a number of publications including: The Washington Post, Spin, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Heart and Soul, Uptown, City Paper, Vibe, and Wax Poetics.
As articles or cover stories, I have covered race, culture, politics, and music featuring musical luminaries such as Lenny Kravitz, Tricky, Damien Marley, Nas, Olu Dara, Jay-Z, Quincy Jones, LL Cool J, Rakim, Tupac, Earth, Wind & Fire, Anthony Hamilton, R. Kelly, Run DMC, Horace Silver, De La Soul, The Fugees, Talib Kweli, Jennifer Hudson, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ann Nesby, Jackie McLean, and James Mtume, among others. My Earth, Wind & Fire story was translated into Japanese for the Japanese edition of Wax Poetics.
I have also interviewed many cultural figures such as Cuban President Fidel Castro, Andy Rooney, Ed Koch, Zane, Johnnie Cochran, Floyd Mayweather, Patrick Ewing, Oscar De La Hoya, and Sugar Ray Leonard, as well as ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Why This Book, Why Now?
This will be the first popular book written about Soul Train. As an anecdotal history of the show from the people that rode the train weekly, the book will pay tribute to Don Cornelius, the artists, dancers, and the crew.
Rev. Al Sharpton recently told me: "James Brown said to me when he introduced me to Don Cornelius, he said, 'Reverend, the thing you have to understand about Mr. Cornelius, is most blacks are in show, he’s in show business!' I'll never forget that. For Cornelius to own a successful TV show was unheard of."
Because of Cornelius’ extraordinary and ground-breaking vision and innovation, I am passionate and focused about making this project the definitive story his life-work. I intend for the book to make a tremendous impact around the world as it documents an important part of television history. Don Cornelius changed the face of music and television by allowing artists to have a national platform during a time when television had become the most powerful medium in history. By the time Soul Trainstarted in 1970 as a local show in Chicago, approximately 95 percent of American households had a television. Soul Train mainstreamed black music into every American household and gave more black artists (and white artists) a unique platform than they would not have had without Cornelius.
How You Can Help
I need to count on the support of Soul Train lovers in order to make this book a reality. While I am contracted to write the story, I need funds to do more than write. This trip to unveil the behind-the-scenes story of Soul Train is a major operation. Your contribution to the Kickstarter.com drive will help me present a stellar book that is well researched and properly marketed. Every single dollar matters toward making this project be a huge success.
There will be release parties around the country that will include artists and dancers that have been on the show.
The money will be used towards:
*Travel costs so that I can continue to interview artists, industry executives, Soul Train alumni, and Cornelius’ family and friends
*Paying skilled people to transcribe more than 100 interviews that have been conducted.
*Promotions and marketing of the book once it has gone to print (book release parties, book-signing, etc.)
So I hope you and your friends will be a part of making history for a show that defined fashion, culture, and music for the Baby Boomer generation and beyond. Let’s make sure Soul Train is an important part of documented history and that this untold story gets told correctly.
Ericka Blount Danois
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
pledged of $5,000 goal
seconds to go
May 20, 2012 - Jul 19, 2012 (60 days)
Pledge $1 or more
I will offer them a poster of the cover of the book.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013
Pledge $5 or more
I will offer $5.99 download for anyone who contributes $5 or more. They will also get a poster of the cover of the book.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013
Pledge $10 or more
I will offer $2.99 download for anyone who contributes $10 or more. They will also get a poster of the cover of the book.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013
Pledge $25 or more
I will offer a $1.99 download of the book for anyone who contributes $25 or more. They will also get a free poster of the book.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013
Pledge $50 or more
They will get a .99 download and a free poster of the cover of the book if you contribute $50 or more.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013
Pledge $100 or more
They will get a .50 download and a free poster of the cover of the book if you contribute $100 or more.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013
Pledge $500 or more
They will get a free download and a free poster of the cover of the book if you contribute $500 or more.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013
Pledge $1,000 or more
They will get a free download, a free copy of the book and a free poster of the cover of the book if you contribute $1000 or more.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013
Pledge $5,000 or more
I am writing a book about a famous nationally syndicated black dance show from the 1970s (Questlove's favorite show). I have interviewed over 100 dancers, artists, and business people related to the show and I am trying to finish the first draft of the manuscript by August 2012. I am looking for money for travel to interview subjects, money for transcribing, and marketing. Other expenses include purchasing all 1,100 episodes of the show, recording equipment, tapes, and buying official photos. The show defined fashion, culture, and music for the Baby Boomer generation and beyond. Comparing it to 'American Bandstand" is like comparing seltzer water to champagne. They will get a free signed copy of the book, a free download, and a free poster of the cover of the book. They will also get VIP access to book parties--which will include dance parties.Estimated delivery: Jan 2013