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."
--Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: Don Cornelius. Credit: Associated Press