From an early age, Steve Black was absolutely sure of one thing: he loved Rock and Roll.
What he may not have known at the time, though, was that this love would help define his life. Through adventure, love and heartache, from his career to his personal life and beyond, music would always be there, giving him purpose and a sense of self.
All of these things and more are detailed in Black’s debut book, From Black to Light, an insightful new autobiography that is emotional, honest and – most of all – entertaining.
Many may know Steve Black as one of the voices behind Motor City’s Rock and Roll scene or as the host of the syndicated radio, The Chop Shop. He has been a radio broadcaster in Detroit for upwards of twenty years, working for stations such as 102.7 The Bear and 101.1 WRIF as an on-air talent, program director and co-host of The Ted Nugent Morning Show.
Others may know the name Steve Black for a very different reason. In 2000, Black’s wife, Sabrina, a fellow Detroit broadcaster, was diagnosed with cancer while the couple was traveling to Hawaii for their wedding. Six years later, she succumbed to the disease following a very public battle, which the Blacks fought bravely.
Prior to her passing, Steve made a promise to Sabrina that he would keep her memory alive by publishing her life-story, and it was that very same promise that eventually led to Black’s own book.
Finding His Own Words
After becoming increasingly frustrated with searching for a writer that could capture his late wife’s personality and spirit, one doctor suggested that Black try a new approach.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you write your story? I think you’ll find you can be much more honest about who she was by being honest about who you were,’” Black remembers. “And so that was the approach, and in the three or four chapters where she’ll live forever, she was the most important person in that story.”
Along with Sabrina’s cancer battle and the aftermath, From Black to Light also outlines Black’s life journey as a whole, including his backpacking trip through Europe in his early 20s, his trials and tribulations in the broadcast industry and other elements of his personal life, such as his romances and relationships.
One thing that may surprise readers is the frankness with which Black discusses intimate details of both his life and the lives of those closest to him. However, he says that he knew the element that was most crucial to telling the whole story was honesty, even regarding things he had rarely disclosed.
“If you’re really trying to connect to somebody, you have to be honest with yourself and you have to tell your real story,” Black explains.
Following Sabrina’s death, Black slipped into a depression which he kept almost completely to himself, save for a few close friends. One of those friends, Gina, would later become his main confidant and, eventually, his wife.
Because writing the book had started as a form of therapy for his depression, Black remembers that he sought out Gina’s approval before publishing some of the private things he thought might be concerning to her.
“The second person to read the book before it had been edited was my wife Gina, and I told her, ‘If there’s anything in there you can’t live with, let me know,’” Black recalls. “And after she finished it, I remember her coming downstairs and she had a couple tears running down her cheek and she said, ‘Don’t change a word.’ So after I had her stamp of approval, I was fine.”
Turning the Music Up
Another way Black has continued to cope with his depression and the loss of Sabrina is through music and his job as a radio personality, both of which he loves immensely. Throughout the autobiography, Rock and Roll serves as a literal soundtrack, as Black writes about his favorite bands and artists, his own experiences performing live and writing music and his encounters with some of rock’s most notable.
Over the course of his career and through his syndicated radio show, The Chop Shop, Steve Black has conducted interviews with iconic artists such as Slash, Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Peter Frampton, Dave Grohl, Kirk Hammett, Sammy Hagar, Tony Iommi and many others, and excerpts and photos from several of those conversations are included in the pages of the book.
The musical anecdotes are woven quite naturally in and out of Black’s personal narrative, which he says was an organic part of the writing process, as music has always been woven deeply into his life.
“The emotions of telling the story and getting the details out would often remind me of what else was happening at that time [in my career], so mostly I just went with [the interviews] that triggered my memory,” Black explains. “I used whatever the story told me was right.”
Keeping His Promise
As for his first mission – to keep Sabrina’s memory alive – Steve Black has succeeded.
Along with sharing portions of his late wife’s diary and other memories and photos of her in his book, in 2006 he also started the Sabrina Black Foundation, a charity organization with the mission of giving financial and moral support to cancer patients and their families.
Though the foundation has since come to a close, Black has continued on to become one of the area’s leading supporters of those battling the disease, and he was recently awarded by Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit with the Founders Award – the cancer resource center's highest honor.
Black has also continued writing in the form of a blog for 101.1 WRIF called “Steve Black’s Rock Report,” where he reviews concerts and album releases, among other things. And while Black says a follow-up to From Light to Black isn’t necessarily imminent, he’s definitely got something in the works.
“I do think there will be another book,” Black confesses. “I have to know I’m in the right place and I’m approaching it from the right place… but I guarantee there’s another book in my head. Maybe several.”
To learn more about the life of Steve Black, pick up a copy of From Light to Black at ChopShopRadio.com, and listen to Black on-air every weekend on 101.1 WRIF.