Tag Archives: Soul Train

Love, Peace and Soul

2 Feb

This morning the internet was covered with reports of the death of Don Cornelius, creator/host/conductor of “Soul Train”. Because this is the first day of Black History Month, I decided to begin my history classes with the news and a short talk on his influence on music and culture. Some of the students had heard of “Soul Train”, but they really didn’t know anything about it. I hope they do now.

During my younger years, I watched “Soul Train” every chance I could, and I am sure that I was not the only white kid to do that. I think the first attraction was the opening. The animated train chugged across the screen in bright colors while the high-pitched Sooouuulll Traaaiiinn came out of the speakers.

However, once the show started the real action hit the screen. Don Cornelius introduced the performers with a rich, deep voice. Dancers wore funky clothes and made funky moves on the dance floor and down the “Soul Train Line”. I was mesmerized by the people, the music, and the action. Being a red-blooded American male, I paid special attention to the female dancers. I never tried any of the moves because I didn’t want to bust my butt, but I wished I could wear the clothes and be absorbed by the music. I didn’t really understand the impact that “Soul Train” had on society. I only knew that it was having an impact on me and what I thought was cool entertainment.

As a historian, I have a deeper understanding of the times I grew up in and Don Cornelius’ role during that time. He brought the soul genre to a wider audience and introduced many Americans to a vibrant African-American culture. He provided a stage for young African-Americans to express their talents and beauty. There was more to people than what white America portrayed and/or believed. Some say that “Soul Train” was simply a black version of “American Bandstand”. True, there were similarities in show design and cultural impact. But, in my opinion, “Soul Train” was a lot more fun.

In coming days, there will be many tributes to Don Cornelius, and this post will pale in comparison. There are several playlists on my iPod with titles that only I understand. When I put together a soul playlist, there was only one thing to call it – “Soul Train”. As a small tribute, these are a few of the artists and songs included on that list. If I could organize an intergalactic concert in Cornelius’ honor, then this is the lineup of performers that I would choose.

The Love Unlimited Orchestra – “Love’s Theme”

The Temptations – “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”

Curtis Mayfield – “Freddie’s Dead”

Marvin Gaye – “Let’s Get it On”

Barry White – “I’ve Got So Much to Give”

Edwin Starr – “War”

The Five Stairsteps – “O-O-H Child”

Stevie Wonder – “Superstition”

Billy Paul – “Me and Mrs. Jones”

Kool and the Gang – “Summer Madness”

Isaac Hayes – “Soulsville”

Roberta Flack – “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”

James Brown – “Down and Out in New York City”

The Isley Brothers – “That Lady”

The Commodores – “Brick House”

Bobby Womack – “Across 110th Street”

Sly and the Family Stone – “Everyday People”

Hues Corporation – “I’m Gonna Catch You”

Aretha Franklin – “Chain of Fools”

Chic – “Good Times”

The Staple Singers – “I’ll Take You There”

War – “All Day Music”

Bill Withers – “Ain’t No Sunshine”

The Brothers Johnson – “Strawberry Letter 23”

Gladys Knight and the Pips – “Midnight Train to Georgia”

Jackson 5 – “I Want You Back”

Lakeside – “Fantastic Voyage”

G.C. Cameron – “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”

Of course, Don Cornelius would come out at the end and sign off with his signature line, “I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul.”