For 35 years, love, peace and soul ruled the Saturday morning TV lineup. Well, at least in this nice Jewish girl’s house.
I know. Seems like a little girl like that, living in the ‘burbs of Miami, should have been watching American Bandstand, not Soul Train. But I preferred a funkier and hipper approach to life, even at the ripe old age of 10.
The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style chronicles the impact of the groundbreaking show on everything from music to dance to fashion and yes, little girls like me! Nothing that’s come along since can compare to the brainchild of Don Cornelius, the coolest guy on the planet, may he rest in peace. (Don passed away in 2012). The genius of Cornelius transcended racial and economic lines. Nelson George, who’s penned quite a few other books about African-American culture, does an outstanding job of telling the story of Cornelius and Soul Train.
What started in Chicago as a local dance show became an institution in Los Angeles with the iconic dance line, scramble board, tight ‘70s music, and the baddest fashions around. Even the theme song had a resounding effect on culture. The Sound of Philadelphia is credited with inspiring the disco movement.
Some of the greatest dancing and dancers came out of Soul Train. There’s locking, the Electric Boogaloo, waacking, Rerun, Jody Whatley, and Rosie Perez, just to list a few of the influential moves and movers. No moon walking without this show. No break dancing. Some might even say J Lo wouldn’t have become a star without Soul Train. (Lopez was part of Perez’s Fly Girls on In Living Color and Perez got her break on the Train.) Many of the dancers were interviewed for this book and all have great stories to tell about life on the Soul Train line.
The show was so successful that Dick Clark tried, and failed, to copy the format with his Soul Unlimited. There’s more to that story . . . you’ll have to read the book to find out how it all went down.
While the show definitely was full of soul, Cornelius featured all types of music, from new wave to hip hop, of which he was not overly fond, according to Nelson. Pick up The Hippest Trip and find out why. Thanks to Soul Train, teens around the nation were exposed to a variety of genres that weren’t necessarily in heavy rotation on the radio – and certainly not on MTV, because it wasn’t in existence at that time. In my humble opinion, this mix of sounds helped bridge the gap between white and black cultures and was an integral part of the ‘70s vibe of love your brother, no matter the color.
To quote Questlove of the Roots, “You know, I know there was a lot of controversy over the sort of pop period of Soul Train. But I didn’t know who the Police were. I saw them on Soul Train. . . Without that, I don’t think I would be as obsessed with music as I am, or as immersed in music as I am.”
What a testament to Don and his show, which endures on the Internet. Every day, generations of new fans are taking the hippest trip back in time down the Soul Train line.
Love, peace, and soul lives on.