Don Cornelius Thank You For Fostering My Love Of Soul Music
As a 1970s and 1980s kid who loved music, I was a big fan of pre-MTV dance shows "American Bandstand," "Dance Fever," and "Solid Gold." But I was addicted to "Soul Train."
Wednesday's news of the tragic passing of "Soul Train" creator and original host Don Cornelius, who was only 75, hits me like a sucker punch.
It never bothered me when performers lip synced their songs. I was more intrigued to see the faces behind the music that I listened to on the radio and on my parents's collection of hundreds of soul albums that lined the coffee table our record player sat upon in our den.
Unlike rappers today, the R&B singers of the 1970s wore ornate costumes. I remember being glued to the TV just soaking up colorful images of Grace Jones, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, Stevie Wonder, and Earth, Wind & Fire, and more when they visited.
Then, there was the dancing. The "Soul Train" dancers were also stars. They taught me how to do the bump, the robot, the rock, and the Robocop without the aid of a DVR or VCR to playback the moves.
I picked out the dancers whose styles I liked the most, and I sat and watched and mimicked them. Kids at the school dances were always surprised at how well this shy, quiet boy could get down.
I could not wait for the "Soul Train Line." The men and women faced off in parallel lines. The couple at the top moved into the center and danced down the aisle as those waiting their turn clapped and rocked from side to side. It was like a rite of passage it was so good, especially when they prepared routines that included jumping off of the stage or doing the splits.
The show even included a black history game show element called the "Soul Train Scramble Board." Cornelius would bring a couple to the front of a blackboard-like easel that had random letters scattered about. He would give them a clue and wait for them to unscramble the letters to reveal the answer.
I watched the show religiously every Saturday even while I was in college.