Commentary: Soul Train Legacy!
– Dhaani (UBGteam)
When I found out via press release of the Soul Train Awards return, I immediately wondered to myself, “why”? Was this a ploy by Viacom owned BET to bring the defunct series back to life or was it an attempt to pimp their new network spin-off, Centric.
BET has already been in trouble with black viewers due to the lack of quality programming offered to those over 30. Bringing this show back had many clutching their pearls. Viewers who grew up watching Soul Train remember it for the trendsetting dance moves, the fashion, and those fine dancers.
Don Cornelius started this show because he dreamt a big dream. Cornelius felt soul should have a place not just on the radio, but on national television. This man took every penny he had to produce a pilot episode. When the show took off, many people were kind of hesitant to pick it up but eventually gave in once station heads noticed its blossoming popularity.
In 1971, Soul Train premiered in 7 major markets including Atlanta, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Soul Train became the outlet of the who’s who in R&B / Soul music. Your career wasn’t anything unless an appearance on the show was on your musical resume.
Fast-forward to 1987, Cornelius wanted to try honoring those in music who didn’t get the recognition they deserved. He created the Soul Train Awards for that very purpose. Year after year big names such as Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross, and Whitney Houston took their rides on the “Train” with memorable performances others have yet to top to this very day.
The success of this telecast eventually led to the creation of the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards celebrating black women in music. As years went on the viewership of the programs eventually declined. Artists began no-showing citing busy schedules or booking themselves for other awards ceremonies forgetting the very show where many got their start.
Where did the black star power go? Why did the very genre of music that influenced generations of music lovers allow the Soul Train Awards go downhill? I ask this because once black musicians (not all) get to a certain status in the industry they have a habit of forgetting the people who gave them a shot.
This takes me back to this “new” Soul Train Awards telecast which aired on November 29th in some markets. Something didn’t seem right. It was like the very soul that kept the train going was gone. It seemed as if many of the performances didn’t mesh well together nor did the Taraji Henson and Terrence Howard bring life to the awards as hosts did in the past.
My problem is if you can’t live up to the legacy and nostalgia Don Cornelius created with Soul Train, why do it at all? BET of all networks shouldn’t have bothered putting on this show when they can’t get their own ducks in a row. Need I revisit the Michael Jackson tribute from the 2009 show?
If BET wanted to bring back Soul Train in a big way, go back to the roots of the show and HONOR every aspect of it. Don’t just get a wild hair up your behinds and put on a production because you feel like this needs to promote a new entity, do it because of black entertainment. Oh I forgot, you all stopped when you “souled” out to the man.