Infectious American dance music that united soul, jazz and latin.
The boogaloo is an ill-defined genre, which for years has almost been written out of black music history and handed over to New York’s Hispanic population, and mixed with its close cousin latin-soul. But as noted in We Like It Like That, Mathew Ramirez Warren’s excellent documentary of that scene, bandleader Richie Ray created the first latin boogaloo after seeing African-Americans in his audience doing the dance at one of his shows, which prompted him to funk up a guajira and create ‘Lookie Lookie’.
“Let’s Do The Boogaloo” attempts to tell a fuller story, tracing the roots of the dance back to a stolen Motown backing track and comedy duo Tom & Jerrio from the dance’s hometown of Chicago taking ‘The Boogaloo’ to the upper reaches of the charts in 1965. We look at where the beat came from, why ‘Lookie Lookie’ had plenty of latin antecedents, and how the success lingered on in the years after the initial breakthrough.
Whereas most dances disappeared within months, one of the biggest boogaloo hits – ‘Boogaloo Down Broadway’ by the Fantastic Johnny C – reached its peak in early 1968, and boogaloo records even resurfaced in hip hop in the 1980s. The latin world took the sound even more to heart, and boogaloos have a tendency to reappear even now. So what made the boogaloo so enduring? Other than it is incredibly good music, there doesn’t appear to be a definitive answer.
This compilation has music recorded in the North, South, East and West between 1965 and 1968. It takes in big names attempting to cash in on the latest dance craze plus new artists and producers trying out this exciting music. The beat is often messed with, and sometimes – such as in Lou Courtney’s ‘Me And You (Doin’ The Boogaloo)’ – stretched so far that you wonder if what you are hearing really is still a boogaloo. The sounds though are irresistible – the groove is often on the cusp of funk and always danceable. Listen to the latin-style horns on Prince & Princess’ ‘Ready, Steady, Go’, the almost mechanical syncopation of Roy Lee Johnson’s ‘Boogaloo #3’ or the frenetic hysteria of Hector Rivera’s ‘Playing It Cool’ and you are aware that this is music that is vibrant and exciting.