By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Now I'm back to let you knowI can really shake 'em downDo you love meNow that I can dance?
the Contours, 1962
The second show inside the main building at the sprawling Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop is about to begin and the place is packed. A scintillating, electrical energy hums along as two percussionists dash on-stage and take their positions. The keyboardist and bass player and guitarist sprint from behind the black curtains, then the four members of the horn section, then the three female back-up singers. Their drum-driven jam throws off sparks, but this is still a prelude.
From somewhere comes a voice carrying the words of the old Beatles song "With a Little Help from My Friends," and then he emerges, wearing a gold lame jacket and yellow high-tops with red laces. His hair is shorter now, tinged auburn, and his tight black jeans are straight-legged, not bell-bottomed. He's spinning like a dervish and beaming like a lost dog come home. The musicians, clearly responding to their leader's galvanic entrance, crank it up a notch or two. KC has arrived, and the Sunshine Band is immediately lifted by his frenetic, kinetic presence.
The group rips into "Do You Wanna Go Party," and the large crowd happily answers in the affirmative. KC is bouncing now, his neck veins bulging with each roared lyric, sweat flying, corners of his mouth upturned, eyes on fire. He looks like a kid at his bestest birthday party ever.
After two more songs, KC pauses, catches his breath, and addresses the audience in an aside. "In 1974 we started a new craze," he says without sounding boastful. "A dance craze. It started with this song. Ready?" The crowd obviously is, and the band unfurls the swaying "Rock Your Baby," a number-one hit that is generally considered the seminal disco song. Partway through it, the tempo shifts into high gear and the indelible rhythm of "That's the Way (I Like It)" snakes through the crowd like an invisible live wire, coiling around every
The blatantly sexual song doesn't seem to offend anyone - the few elderly folks who walk out are shaking their heads and complaining only about the volume. Straight-laced parents encourage tiny tots to shake their booties. People of varying colors and ages stand atop metal folding chairs, boogieing like it's 1977 all over again.
The growling, scowling "I'm Your Boogie Man" maintains the vibe, the horns scream insistently, KC swaggers and shimmies and shakes, and then the group breaks into "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty." Everyone does. The band, which features a mix of veteran and new members, is well schooled in KC's music, and that education is put to the test soon enough as they lower the boom with a classy, brassy version of "Get Down Tonight," which breaks for a wild percussion
To those who did not feel the surging, electrifying power of the recent Swap Shop concert, KC in 1990 might seem to be an anachronism. Think KC and you can't help but conjure up images of a boyish, jumpsuited white guy fronting a mostly black band that played mindless disco music, albeit music that everyone remembers, and millions and millions of people purchased during the Seventies.
The Vietnam war was over, Nixon had been exposed, living seemed easy. There were no hostages in the Middle East, no savings and loan failures, the budget deficit hadn't grown to unimaginable size, crack hadn't ravaged, and perhaps most importantly, there was no AIDS. It was morally correct, or at least acceptable, to be selfish, indulgent, disinterested. Even to be unapologetically happy. There weren't many causes to fight for, even fewer people to do the fighting. KC and the Sunshine Band offered the perfect soundtrack for the good life - songs about love and lust set to driving dance beats. Don't worry about the state of the world or ponder the fragility of the future - you might miss out on the
"To begin with," KC says, "when I foresaw this thing coming, we were making dance records. I was a little bit upset when it was called `disco.' It was dance music, rhythm and blues. I think the whole Saturday Night Fever thing turned this into disco - that word, it means discotheque, where the music was played. It didn't mean the type of music we were doing. Look at punk, it was simplistic and people danced to it. With dance music, it was a reawakening in the Seventies and an accepting of a form of music that's been around since the beginning."
The term disco symbolized an entire movement, one that thrust blacks and gays into the face of mainstream America. The Sunshine Band led the movement, but did so unintentionally. "That was the idea of `Shake Your Booty,'" KC remembers. "People being afraid or intimidated by the Joneses. You can't live in a separatist world. But there was nothing meant by me being white and being the leader. We were one. I never looked at who was what. We could have been green people and yellow people, it was just the fact that we all enjoyed the same type of music. And we said don't fight the feeling, have a good time together."