Don Cornelius (AP Photo)
Soul Train was a TV show like no other. Starting in 1971 and lasting for 35 years, it showcased the best of R&B, soul and hip hop music, driven by hot singles, great live performances, and very funky dancing. At the heart of it all was the show's creator and longtime host, Don Cornelius.
The "hippest trip in America" was made all the hipper by Cornelius's ear for great music – and his smooth, deep voice. When he introduced new songs and show segments like the Soul Train Line, you couldn't help but listen. And though he played down his ability, Cornelius could dance, too – fans went wild the one and only time he joined the line.
More than just a music showcase, Soul Train included Cornelius's interviews with artists, with time for audience questions afterward. Cornelius inspired insight from the performers – sometimes the audience did, too (and sometimes they just wanted to know a favorite star's zodiac sign).
The list of beloved musicians who appeared on Soul Train is too long to even attempt here, but it includes greats like James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Alicia Keys, Barry White, Mary J. Blige, and hundreds more. And, of course, Aretha Franklin, featured in this great clip from 1973.
Cornelius died by suicide Feb. 1, 2012. As we remember his massive contributions to the television and music worlds, we send his words back to him. Love, peace and soul, Don Cornelius.
Written by Linnea Crowther