WPA gets ‘SOUL!’ – all 40 show episodes

Patti LaBelle

After a year of tracking down lost episodes of “SOUL!” WPA Film Library assembled a remarkable collection of the African American TV series not seen in more than 35 years.

Musical guests who performed on the 1967-73 show variety-talk show ? such as Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Al Green, Earth Wind and Fire, Gladys Knight and Tito Puente — were among the era’s top artists.

The collection is important not only for the exuberant performances, but more so for it having provided a platform for political expression.?

Civil Rights activists Sydney Poitier, Muhammad Ali, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Harry Belefonte, among others, were interviewed by frequent host and poet Nikki Giovanni, who was called “a searing voice” of the Black Power Movement.

WPA acquired SOUL!’s 40 hour-long shows from their producer, New York’s PBS outlet, WNET. “We knew some of the episodes were lost,” said WPA general manager Nicola Goelzhaeuser, “and we spent a year unearthing them in university libraries and the Library of Congress.” Although WPA has found most of the most, she believes “more are still out there.”??

Orland Park-based WPA is one of the world’s biggest archives. Its 100 collections total some 60,000 hours of vintage and contemporary images. Recently, it also obtained the stock footage rights to the feature, “Baraka”, filmed all over the world in 70mm. Email wpasales@mpimedia.com.