I’m sad to report that Don Cornelius, mastermind behind the classic 1970s and 80s show “Soul Train,” passed away this morning, from an apparent suicide. If you care at all about music, dancing, and any combination thereof, then you should know “Soul Train.” If you grew up in that time period, you probably do know of it — it was in syndication in Maine during its heyday, and it’s lived on on YouTube and in infomercials for “The Best of Soul Train,” the latter of which I would watch in its entirety if it came on TV at 3 a.m. It was the show that featured r&b, soul, funk and, later, hip hop artists performing, and an ever-changing group of dancers doing the hottest moves, none of which your typical uncool teenager from the sticks would ever encounter otherwise.
I’m a child of the 80s, and by the time I was 11 years old, Don Cornelius was done with the show, though it stayed on air with different hosts until 2006. I don’t think it was on as many networks after Cornelius left, and I only have vague memories of it actually being broadcast on TV. But later, after college, some friends with a huge library of DVDs and VHS tapes of old music-related TV shows popped a “Soul Train” marathon on, and we watched it all night. Not only is the dancing amazing, and the music amazing (P-Funk! MJ! Whitney! Curtis! Bowie!) but the fashion is spectacular — a perfect snapshot of what was hip in a particular year in America. Is there anything like it on TV right now? Of course not. If there was, it would be a competition and there’d be a panel of obnoxious judges, and it wouldn’t be any fun. I’d rather have Don Cornelius, in an impeccable suit, guiding the young people of America towards good music and good dancing. Somebody’s got to fill the “Soul Train’ void. Anyway, in Cornelius’ honor, here are some videos, cherry-picked from YouTube, of some Soul Train highlights. As always, in parting, peace, love… and soul!
First, some 1970s stuff.
And then onto the 80s…