Category: Soul Train

'Soul Train': 6 performances from Don Cornelius' heyday [Video]


During the 22 years that Don Cornelius hosted "Soul Train," the show put the spotlight on some of the most important musical performers, not just of the day, but of all time. While Cornelius and "Soul Train" struggled to stay relevant to the youth culture as the show entered its third decade (Keenan Ivory Wayans did a parody of the show on "In Living Color" called "Old Train"), during its heyday it was a time capsule of everything important in music.

Ike and Tina Turner appeared on the last episode of the show's first season in 1972, performing their Grammy-winning cover of "Proud Mary."

Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson were already working on solo careers by the time the Jackson 5 performed on "Soul Train" early in the show's second season. Jermaine had a top 10 hit with a cover of the song "Daddy's Home" and was being pushed as a star, hence the giant "Jermaine" behind the group during their October 1972 performance.

A very young Stevie Wonder -- he was 22 at the time -- made his first appearance on "Soul Train" in January 1973 performing his No. 1 hit "Superstition."

Though "Soul Train" was often compared to Dick Clark's "American Bandstand," Cornelius' show was a little more sensual than Clark's wholesome "Bandstand." Just check out this 1974 appearance by Marvin Gaye, giving a very relaxed performance of "Let's Get it On," while moving his way through a bevy of very excited young ladies in the crowd.

Though "Soul Train" was known primarily as a showcase for African American performers, it wasn't exclusive. In January 1976, David Bowie made his first apperance on the program, one of the first white artists to do so, performing his first crossover hit in the United States, "Fame."

As the '70s gave way to the '80s, the cutting edge of R&B was moving toward more militant hip hop, as exemplified by this appearance by Public Enemy in 1987, performing "Rebel Without a Pause." Cornelius later admitted he was not as comfortable with this new music as that of the previous decade.  And you can tell from the awkward post-performance interview with Chuck D and the group, which Cornelius described as "frightening."


'Soul Train' creator dead in apparent suicide

Don Cornelius died of gunshot wound to the head

Remembering Don Cornelius: 'Soul Train' creator defined an era

--Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Don Cornelius. Credit: Associated Press

Remembering Don Cornelius: 'Soul Train' creator defined an era

Click for Don Cornelius' life in pictures

The news Wednesday morning that "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius was found dead in Sherman Oaks, an apparent suicide, has brought an entire era of music rushing back. The Times' Andrew Blankstein writes that Cornelius died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Cornelius, the low-key influencer who helped deliver funk, soul and disco music into Saturday afternoon living rooms across America and helped prime the world for the impending hip-hop revolution, was one of the most important tastemakers of the 1970s -- and was a key purveyor of black pop culture on television. He not only broke artists and songs on a weekly basis, but showcased the amazing dance moves that were reacting to the music. 

2010 saw the release -- finally -- of a double-CD collection of "Soul Train" highlights, and the Times spoke with Cornelius about "Soul Train," its influence, and revisiting the era. "The '70s and '80s were just the period during which the best soul music was created and the best records were done," Cornelius told writer Jeff Weiss. "Whenever I walk into a store or any kind of environment, these kinds of songs from that period still play and I wonder if it's a 'Soul Train' tape. Because during those two decades, we were on top of them all in one way or another, either presenting the guests or playing the records. We were just flat-out in love with the music."

PHOTOS: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

Cornelius also spoke about his initial reactions to hip-hop -- he was lukewarm at first, but soon enough started playing it -- and about his then-current plans to bring to life a film based on "Soul Train." 

"We've been in discussions with several people about getting a movie off the ground," he said. "It wouldn't be the 'Soul Train' dance show, it would be more of a biographical look at the project. It's going to be about some of the things that really happened on the show. I had a discussion with Eddie Murphy not long ago, and he liked the documentary so much that he suggested that he might want to do something in terms of the show's relationship with James Brown -- if not play him, than just do a kind of vignette."

Pop & Hiss will keep you updated on the sad news of Cornelius' death.

And then there's this, which says it all:



'Soul Train' creator dead in apparent suicide

Don Cornelius died of gunshot wound to the head

Don Cornelius discusses 'Soul Train' and its influence

-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Don Cornelius in 2006. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

Don Cornelius and the 'Soul Train' still grooving 40 years later

Approximately 35 years after their creative apogees, names like James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, Barry White and Aretha Franklin exist as almost afterthoughts. Their legendary status is so secure as to be taken for granted. Their catalogs will live on indefinitely, their songs are staples at celebrations of all types, and their merits have been rightfully memorialized in every arena imaginable.

Yet the most salient evidence of their genius always came live, with their awe-inspiring gifts capable of somehow simultaneously forcing you to both move and stop to take note of their talents. That's only one of many reasons to explain why "The Best of Soul Train" DVD set is essential -- a three-disc collection that captures the aforementioned artists, along with other Hall of Famers like The O'Jays, The Jackson 5 and The Commodores, in their afroed and sequined glory.

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