In October 1971, a Chicago journalist turned disc jockey named Don Cornelius brought a show – that was initially started locally – into millions of homes across America.
That show, Soul Train, went on to become, according to wikipedia.com, “. . . the longest, continuously running first-run syndicated program in television history.”
Soul Train provided viewers the opportunity to see musicians who otherwise were pretty invisible on television, and the soul music artists were able to reach a wider audience, thus giving them the ability to attract even more fans.
Every Saturday afternoon, households everywhere would tune in to see “the hippest trip in America” with its latest dance moves and fashion trends of the moment. The “Soul Train Line” became (and still is) a staple at events such as weddings, graduation and birthday parties.
Almost 40 years later, viewers are left with memories of Cornelius signing off every show with his signature “. . . and you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and SOUL!”
Cornelius died on Feb. 1, and while we are all left wondering what would motivate this 75-year-old man to take his own life, only Cornelius knows the reason.
In tribute to his legacy, on Feb. 4, individuals in Times Square filled the streets and broke into a Soul Train Flash mob.
Today, in the honor of Don Cornelius’ creative endeavor, I offer a few of my favorite Soul Train moments:
A few years ago, my sister recorded an episode of Soul Train featuring Chico DeBarge performing Talk to Me. I have NEVER laughed so hard in my life. I know it was the 80s, and as I child of that decade, I can look back and honestly say we were a hot mess at times. Well, maybe more times than I’ll admit, but every decade has their moment.
Chico was beyond a mess with his cut-off shirt and slick hair. I’m not sure what look he was going for, but it appeared to be a bad imitation of Prince and his brother, El DeBarge.
And his dancing? Whew, I’m cracking up just thinking about him kneeling down and popping back up where he promptly goes into this side-to-side move. Michael Jackson he definitely wasn’t!
I couldn’t find the exact clip on YouTube, but this one will have to suffice as it comes close to his Soul Train appearance.
I always had a great affection for the Soul Train Line seeing as though I know I would have never made it down the line (my idea of dancing is the two-step, which I do quite well, thank you oh so very much). I think the moves from the 70s were way better than the 80s (and so was the fashion. I’m still trying to figure out what we were thinking when we got dressed in the 80s!) Here’s a clip of Cornelius himself taking a stroll down the line.
Two words – New Edition! One of the best groups to come out of the 80s, NE appeared on the show many times. Here they are in 1985 singing Candy Girl wearing matching white outfits and dancing in formation. I loved them then, and I love them now!
Lastly, one thing that always bothered me about the show was the lip synching. I still do not understand why the artists couldn’t sing live! Those who appeared on Soul Train were not like some of today’s singers who were created in the studio.
The likes of Gladys Knight, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five, Aretha Franklin and Barry White all appeared on the show and could have done easily sung live.