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The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Styleby Nelson George
Synopses & Reviews
"We wish you love, peace . . . and soul!"
When it debuted in October 1971, Soul Train boldly went where no variety show had gone before, showcasing the cultural preferences of young African Americans and the fashions and sounds that defined their lives: R&B, funk, jazz, disco, and gospel music. The brainchild of radio announcer Don Cornelius, who was the show's producer and host for decades, Soul Train featured a diverse range of stars, from James Brown and David Bowie to Gladys Knight and R. Kelly; from Marvin Gaye and Elton John to the New Kids on the Block, Stevie Wonder, and the Beastie Boys.
From acclaimed author and filmmaker Nelson George ("the most accomplished black music critic of his generation"—Washington Post Book World), The Hippest Trip in America tells the full story of this legendary pop-culture phenomenon. A landmark program in black music and culture, Soul Train, which premiered just seven years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, presented a positive image of black America—for black America—and became destination television every Saturday. It also enjoyed a wide crossover audience, and for years served as a cultural nexus for the entire nation. Famous dancers like Rosie Perez and Jody Watley, performers such as Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Barry White, and Don Cornelius himself all share their memories, offering insights into the show and its time—a period of extraordinary social and political change.
As pulsating and colorful as the show itself, The Hippest Trip in America is a vivid and vital portrait of a revered cultural institution—the longest-running syndicated program in television history—that has left an indelible mark on our national consciousness.
"The iconic music-and-dance television show that defined the look and moves of Black America gets a fond though unfocused retrospective in this nostalgic history. Music historian George (The Death of Rhythm and Blues) recounts Soul Train's run as a pioneering showcase for African-American music and pop culture, recalling the bell-bottoms, platform shoes, and planetary afros of its 1970s heyday, the on-set drama of ambitious young dancers jostling for camera time, and the show's centrality in the Ã¢Â€Â˜hood as a Saturday tele-ritual that inspired fashion and dance floor trends. The story loses steam as it chugs into the 1980s and 1990s, when crossover acts abandoned the show for whiter audiences, viewers departed for music-video channels, and producer/host Don Cornelius, once the epitome of cool with his elegant suits and suave baritone, fell behind the times in his estrangement from the hip-hop scene. George relies heavily on interviews from the eponymous VH1 documentary; some of these reminiscences, like Rosie Perez's exuberant recollection of dancing, are a hoot, but the narrative stalls during lengthy monologues, including four solid pages of Cornelius's congressional testimony against gangsta rap. Still, George captures some of the energy and creativity of black youth cult busting out of the ghetto. Photos. (March 25)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Nelson George is an author and filmmaker who specializes in documenting and celebrating African American culture. He has written several classic black music histories, including Where Did Our Love Go? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound, The Death of Rhythm & Blues, and Hip Hop America. He also coedited The James Brown Reader: 50 Years of Writing About the Godfather of Soul. His most recent novel is The Plot Against Hip Hop. He has also contributed major articles on the films The Help, Pariah, and 12 Years a Slave to the New York Times. George directed the HBO film Life Support as well as the VH1 documentary Finding the Funk.
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Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » Media Studies