Archive for July 11th, 2018

By Marilyn Ferdinand

“It’s the Sooooooooooooooooooul Traaaaaaaaaaaaain.”

People all over the world may not have been getting down, as the theme song for “Soul Train” during the years I watched (“TSOP” by MFSB) told them to, but I know that a lot of kids across the country were. From the first moment that falsetto, whistlelike announcement sounded and an animated train started its boogie into our living rooms, we were ready to party.

Through more than 1,100 programs, updated theme songs, and new hosts, the celebration of “peace, love, soul” that was “Soul Train” has endured as no other televised dance club has—the vanguard showcase of new music from and for the African-American community. But it wasn’t just for them. Don Cornelius, the brains behind “Soul Train” and its longtime host, knew white kids like me were tuning in, fed up with the sanitized music and format of “American Bandstand,” the show we were supposed to watch.

I can’t speak for the African-American viewers about what “Soul Train” meant to them, but to me it meant freedom. I saw young men and women of color, otherwise nonexistent in my suburban habitat, dance in ways I found exciting and inventive in vibrantly colored clothes cut high, low, wide, and skinny with a confidence and cool I could only dream of possessing. The music was earthy, rhythmic, infectious, and, of course, the very essence of soul. And the show inspired pride as two kids worked the Scramble Board to assemble the names of famous African-American people—Roberta Flack, Adam Clayton Powell, The Jackson Five and many more—from a random jumble of letters and then melt into the dancing around them when they had solved the puzzle. (more…)

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