Friday, February 3, 2012

Love Peace & Soul -- Don Cornelius

Soul Train was something you got right away or you didn't.

If you had to explain why you watched it, then you knew Soul Train's appeal had escaped the other person.

From the get go, the very first time I watched Soul Train I was hooked.  Every Saturday morning I would turn it on, turn it up, watch it and dance.  How else was a white girl gonna stay on top of the latest dance moves?  News stories say that Soul Train was a black American Bandstand but really we all know that Soul Train was so much more.  American Bandstand was predictable and Soul Train never was.

Don Cornelius, Soul Train's conductor, was soooo smooth and soooo cool.  His voice was distinctive, sortof Barry Whiteish, and he always dressed in a sharp suit and tie.  When I first saw the breaking news that he had been found dead, I immediately went to Google to find out more.  Los Angeles police said Cornelius died in California of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  It was incredibly sad to think of him being by himself in such a desperate state of mind.

Soul Train was Cornelius' concept and with $400 and a lot of funk, he lined up the advertising dollars, hosted the show and changed television programming in a mighty, mighty way.  Every week the hottest black entertainers were featured: Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and The O'Jays, among others.  From 1971 to 2006, Cornelius produced more than 1,000 syndicated Soul Train episodes.

But the best part of the show was the line dance!!  This is when the dancers would form two lines and leave the middle open so that one or two dancers could sashay, shimmy, twirl, kick, jump or just plain get down and dance their way towards the camera.  And the dancer's outfits consisted of unitards, halter tops, shorts and lots of sequins and fringe.  My friends and I were talking about the show's line dance yesterday and we unanimously agreed that when we watched the line dance we all pretended we were on the show and we all knew how we would dance down the line if given the chance.

This morning I listened to people call in to WHUR and talk about how infectious the line dance is and how the line dance eventually happens at all kinds of parties and family reunions.  Soul Train and Don Cornelius are icons that will never be forgotten.  As my friend LeVette would say: Soul Train, you were the

Love, Peace and Soul to you, Don Cornelius and as you would say on every Soul Train episode, "Bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey!"