Black music means all things to our community; at least the way I see it. It 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 fortitude to make something out of nothing. Yes, and I know that is an understatement – but so true.
I cannot pay homage to Black Music Month without giving credit to Soul Train and to Don Cornelius who made something possible at a time when it was impossible. Lest remember that just a few years earlier black music was not allowed to be played on 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 African American’s 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 so was the world left behind. Thanks in large part to a Saturday afternoon television show called “Soul Train”.
The host of this groundbreaking show Don Cornelius was a tall always stylishly dress. He was an enigmatic mélange of ambition, vision and begrudging affection who unlike most old school show biz impresarios. African American’s knew that Soul Train’s rival American Bandstand did very little for the artist or our community or 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 travail; 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, a 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 them overnight. Soul Train was the powerful vehicle and it became the longest running syndicated show on television, a black history fact to remember.
Watching Soul Train made you instantly cool, no matter if you were black, white or otherwise. Where else could you learn the latest dances, hippest fashions, and the next best way to rock that 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 a world rarely seen by the world.
When Mr. Cornelius signed off on February 1, 2012, it was a tragic end to a 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!
“Just a Season”