Extraordinary Moments in Soul Train History
Earlier this week, Don Cornelius, the beloved host and creator of Soul Train, chose the Gunter Sachs method of treating Alzheimer’s disease: he shot himself in the head. Though terribly sad, it’s not at all surprising that men like Cornelius and Sachs—both unceasingly proud and dignified individuals who lived fairy-tale lives—opted to stare down the barrel of a shotgun rather than the dim, tapering tunnel of dementia.
Many under the age of 30 had likely never heard of Mr. Cornelius before this week, since his 22-year tenure as tour guide on “The Hippest Trip in America” ended in 1993. But any fans of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Gladys Knight, Run-DMC or countless other artists whose careers began on Soul Train owe a healthy bit of gratitude to Don Cornelius.
To that end, we present you with three of the most extraordinary moments in Soul Train history.
DANCING THE SOUL TRAIN LINE WITH MARY WILSON
What to Watch For: Cornelius’s unprecedented sex appeal: Barry White’s voice, Barack Obama’s charm and Michael Jackson’s moves.
Best Line: Cornelius to Wilson concerning the Soul Train Line: “Ima put you in there.” (1:01)
Highlight: Cornelius’s bell-bottom shuffle step. (3:02)
INTERVIEWING JAMES BROWN AND AL SHARPTON
What to Watch For: How seriously Cornelius takes the matter of crime within the African-American community.
Best Line: James Brown’s advice to young brothers: “Get your stuff together. Before you can get anything else together, you gotta get ‘me.’” (0:15)
Highlight: James Brown’s stance throughout the interview; 19-year-old Al Sharpton’s sideburns. (2:15)
SERENADED BY STEVIE WONDER
What to Watch For: How grateful a 20-year-old Stevie Wonder is to the man who launched his career. (9:00)
Best Line: “We’re back with the eighth wonder of the world, Stevie Wonder.” (0:10)
Highlight: The medal around Stevie’s neck and the collar on Cornelius’s shirt.
Take us out, Mr. Cornelius…
“We got another sound comin’ out of Philly that’s a sure ’nough dilly. And you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”
- — C. Brian Smith