Soul Train, “The Hippest Trip in America,” was the first television show featuring and even celebrating black music and culture. It began from very humble beginnings – airing weekdays only on WCIU-TV in Chicago, but with Cornelius’ vision and business savvy went on to become a nationally syndicated institution beloved by the entire spectrum of racial diversity. The show was hosted by the ultra-cool Cornelius himself from its start through 1993, then sought to become and even “hipper trip” by bringing on younger hosts (Shemar Moore, Dorian Gregory, Mystro Gregory and others) to freshen up its image. From the opening credits to the famous scramble board, the culture-defining memories that are held regarding the show are nearly incomparable.
Soul Train not only showcased the breadth of musical talent that exists within the black community through featuring fledgling and established R&B acts – and a few blue-eyed honoraries to boot, but it also featured an intriguing revolving cast of talented dancers, some of whom are still remembered today and went on to achieve greater success (Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel, “the Asian lady” Cheryl Song …). Anybody who was or wanted to be anybody – from Gladys Knight to Elton John – wanted to be part of the black entertainment juggernaut. The show almost instantly made being black cool, amassing rabidly devoted fans who propelled it to becoming “the longest running first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history.” It aired from 1971 to 2006 and also spawned shows such as The Lady of Soul Awards, The Soul Train Awards (still airing today) and just recently the brand to the sea as the Soul Train Cruise, featuring some of the artists that contributed to it’s greatness.
Danois’ love for Soul Train and awareness that she was obviously joined by millions of other die-hard fans compelled her do her part in preserving and celebrating its legacy. She went to work writing the recently released book, Love, Peace and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments (now available thru Amazon and other book stores), to keep Cornelius’ inspiring legacy alive and churned out a compelling labor of love.
This brief intro only scratches the surface of what made Soul Train great, but Danois digs way beneath the surface to revisit widely known moments about the show and to reveal some not so known. At an event celebrating the release of the book in Brooklyn, New York, Danois gave a personal account of why she wrote the book, what it’s about and whose input she sought to flesh it out. She stopped short of dancing, but also shared some of her favorite Soul Train moments.