I am always proud and take great pride in bringing into remembrance the ghost of the greats and reminding people of their great contributions. There was no one greater and more profound that the hippest man on the planet than Don Cornelius! He was the conductor of Soul Train; the hippest trip in America. He had a vision that touch every soul, feature our best artist, and came into our souls once a week for decades. Soul Train was not just his – it was ours.
Soul music means all things to the black community. It is a valuable community, often copied; stolen by the dominant community take as their own. This is not just the way I see, rather a fact. Soul music is a sound that dictates the rhythm of our soul. I have said many times that “our story is the greatest story ever told.” We, as a people, have had the good fortitude and spirit to make something out of nothing. Yes, and I know that is an understatement – but so true.
I cannot pay homage to Black Music without giving credit to Soul Train and its creator Don Cornelius who made something possible at a time when it was impossible. Let’s remember that just a few years earlier black music was not allowed to be played on mainstream radio. Let me remind you it was called “Race Music” segregated like the rest of America.
I left for Vietnam in 1969. At that time, our representation on television as it related to black American was basically nonexistent. Of course, there was the buffoonery and unrealistic representations of who they wanted us to appear to the world. When I returned, a year and a half later, I was changed as a young man and saw the world differently. I can credit that to, in large part, to a Saturday afternoon television show called “Soul Train”. It was a huge sense of pride because we got to see black artists in all its glory.
The host of this groundbreaking show was Don Cornelius, who was a tall always stylishly dress. He was an enigmatic mélange of ambition, vision and begrudging affection who unlike most old school showbiz impresarios. Black music lovers knew that Soul Train’s rival American Bandstand did very little for the artist or our community! Soul Train did provide joy within our souls. Mr. Cornelius had the vision to create the hippest trip on television and dare I say in America.
Soul Train was not just a great American story of triumph over white supremacy; rather it was a hallowed symbol to the African American community. Soul Train changed the world through its outstanding reflections of our pride and talent. The show shined a light, bright light, on the African American culture through great music while showcasing the performers who in many cases had no other national platform. This included the known, unknown, and obscure – literally making stars of this talent overnight. Soul Train was the powerful vehicle, and it became the longest running syndicated show on television, a black history fact worth remembering.
Watching Soul Train made you instantly cool, no matter if you were black, white or otherwise. It was the place to learn the latest dances, hippest fashions, and the next best way to rock an Afro and what products you had to have to keep it looking good? The legendary Soul Train Line was essential viewing. Can you remember those parties you attend on the Saturday night after watching the show where you used the moves to do your own Soul Train line? It could be said that it raised your “Cool IQ”. Soul Train was a window into the world rarely seen by the world.
When Mr. Cornelius signed off on February 1, 2012, it was a tragic end to the long-running iconic figure in American music. In remembrance of the creator’s legendary roll; I wish him love, peace, and soul. May his soul Rest In Peace! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…