VH1 will pay tribute to “Soul Train” creator and founder Don Cornelius with a Friday, February 3rd re-airing of the Emmy-Award nominated documentary “Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America.”
This stirring 90-minute documentary, narrated by Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard and featuring an original score by ?uestlove of the Roots, celebrates the show’s impact on pop culture, music, dance and fashion. Cornelius, in a rare interview, also shares exclusive details on the series’ early days.
Other featured interview subjects include Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson, Snoop Dogg, Aretha Franklin, Sly Stone, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and others.
Soul Train was the longest running, first-run syndicated series in history. Originally set in Chicago, “Soul Train” launched on WCIU-TV with Cornelius — a local radio and television personality — on August 17, 1970. The show moved to Los Angeles thereafter, becoming a national phenomenon over its run through 2006, offered a window into African American music and culture.
Cornelius, who died earlier this week from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, eventually created a media empire as one of the first black entertainers to control the rights to his own show. Along the way, several of his favorite expressions entered the language — including “a groove that will make you move real smooth” and, of course, his legendary signoff … “Wishing you love, peace, and soul!” He was 75.
Here’s a look back at recent thoughts on featured artists from “Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America,” and our thoughts on Don Cornelius. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
THE O’JAYS, BILLY PAUL, MFSB, OTHERS – GOLDEN GATE GROOVE: LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO 1973 (2012): A soul-lifting journey back to the first, and only, time that the stars of Philadelphia International Records — the 1970s’ most influential black music firm — performed in concert with the label’s legendary house band MFSB and with Cornelius as the emcee. MFSB, which backed everybody while performing some shag-carpeted, throwback interludes, shines brightest on their disco-fied instrumental “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia).” A future No. 1 record that hadn’t been released yet, it has all of the period’s ear-candy characteristics — from the roiling horn blasts, to the chanky-chank guitar, to the images it inevitably conjures of shivery afros, street-level style and eye-popping moves as the theme song for “Soul Train.”
SLY STONE – I’M BACK!: FAMILY AND FRIENDS (2011): The many remakes here certainly have their moments – among them, Jeff Beck’s distinctive contribution to “(I Want to Take You) Higher,” the Woodstock anthem; Bootsy Collins’ skyscraper-rattling bass contributions to “Hot Fun”; and those gurgling organ fills from the Doors’ Ray Manzarek on “Dance to the Music.” Perhaps a new generation will uncover these nervy anthems all over again. Still, it’s the opportunity to hear something new from Stone – something perhaps approaching the cataclysmic bass riffs, the transformative lyrical genius, the roiling gumbo of soul and meaning of his best work around 1970 – that draws you in the furthest.
ONE TRACK MIND: LABELLE, “LADY MARMALADE” (1974): They appeared wearing ersatz space-girl outfits – disco strippers from the future! – while singing a song about the world’s oldest profession. So, yeah, this being the 1970s, the Allen Toussaint-produced “Lady Marmalade” would become the biggest hit in a two-year span of charting songs by Labelle. The song’s familiar refrain of “voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir” – originally sung by Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash; then later, as part of the 2001 “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack, by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink – translates into “do you want to sleep with me, this evening?” Meaning, it allowed at least two generations of goofball lotharios-in-the-making an opportunity to impress the ladies with their rudimentary knowledge of dirty French.