(Top) Andrea Bocelli, Apl.de.ap, George Shearing, Ray Charles, José Feliciano; (middle) Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Gilbert Montagné, Omar Abdel Rahman, Ronnie Milsap, Stevie Wonder; (bottom) Jimmy Carter, Sonny Terry, Reverend Gary Davis, Esref Armagan, Zhou Yunpeng
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.
As connoisseurs of history, we sometimes find styles, trends and turns of phrase from the past that we wouldn’t mind bringing back to the present, Doc Brown-style. This time around, we’re dusting off superstition.
We’re usually fans of reason.
But while we trust science in 19 out of 20 occasions, there are a few places where the rational order of the universe breaks down and pure, tribal instinct is the only system that can adequately make sense of the world. The shortlist includes job interviews, sold-out concerts, public transportation, local elections, and professional sports.
It’s not exactly the modern thing to do, but it’s the honest human thing to do—and it’s a custom we’d like to dust off.
While this must have netted the Don a pretty penny, we’re more interested in what it means for the show’s archives, a time capsule of some of the best funk and soul of the 70s, along with some of the worst jumpsuits. From the Jackson 5 (above) to Stevie Wonder and Sly & the Family Stone, we can’t think of another 70s television artifact that deserves DVD canonization more.
As always, Kempt wishes you love, peace, and soul.