Tag Archives: Don Cornelius


Ok I gotta stop doing these.  There’s just no end to the awesome shit I could post in this series, so I just encourage all of you to watch some related videos to all the ones I already put up, and watch plenty of the Soul Train lines that I didn’t put up, because they’re all amazing and totally worth your time.  Let’s not let this awesome thing Don Cornelius created die with him.  I’m gonna leave you where we started on this whole expedition: in the capable hands of Al Green, hope you’ve enjoyed it.  RIP Don, forever.

Al Green – Love & Happiness

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The hip-hop performances continued for a while on Soul Train, and it featured some pretty iconic dudes.

Kurtis Blow – The Breaks

Run-DMC – Hit & Run

I think there’s a dude dressed like the Tin Man in the crowd for that one.  Crazy.  I wish I could find the Kurtis Blow interview on the internet someplace, but I can’t.  Here’s another Run-DMC one though, which is pretty cool.

I think a lot of “conscious rap” puritans should remember what Run says about hip-hop in this interview: it’s party music, it’s funky, and everybody can dance to it.  I love it when rap talks about cultural and political issues too, for sure, there’s always a place for that.  But we should never forget that rap started out as fun, party music.  Dance music.  That’s what it is at its heart, from the beginning.

It’s also interesting to see how these dudes respond to the questions put to them vs. how the previous interviews have gone.  It probably says something about the communities where those artists came from that they respond so differently.  It’s not like Run-DMC are like the roughest street rappers ever by any means, but I would imagine that their upbringing was more difficult in a lot of ways than, say, Curtis Mayfield’s.  There was probably more blatant racism and oppression going on in those 70s soul singers’ childhoods, which I would never describe as “easy”, but the state of poverty and desperation that the New York youth suffered in the 70s leading into the 80s probably led the average black kid from those areas to be a little more defensive and not so forthcoming with personal information and feelings than a man born 10 years earlier, you know?  And the crowd is way different too, much more raucous and uncontrolled.  It’s pretty interesting to see that difference, and I of course don’t know any of these dudes personally so it’s all a bunch of guesswork on my part, but I think there’s somethin to it.  Maybe?

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Much like this may have been many people’s introduction to the phenomenon that was The Jackson 5, it’s very possible that if you caught this episode when it first came out, it was the first time you ever heard rap music.  Even though hip hop was around for years before this song came out, this was the first big commercial song of the genre.  Everything else was either only locally known around the New York area or was maybe only a little rapped section in an otherwise traditional funk or disco song.  This performance is actually from a couple years after the song first came out, but there’s no way there weren’t at least a few people unaware of the emergence of this genre that caught this episode of Soul Train and got their world flipped upside down.  Pretty historic.

The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight

And it’s cool that Don even had these dudes on the show in the first place.  Don wasn’t even particularly happy about disco taking over the funk scene, much less hip hop emerging as the dominant black pop music a few years later.  But he still recognized its significance and power and supported it on his show out of his feeling of dedication to the community and his listeners.  I admire that.  At least he tried.

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I’ve always thought that watching Curtis Mayfield perform doesn’t look much different than somebody doing Curtis Mayfield karaoke.  I feel like his glasses are always kinda crooked, he kinda moves funny, and the way his mouth moves when he sings just doesn’t line up at all with how beautiful and smooth his actual voice is.  I always really enjoy watching it though, and I like the points he brings up in his interview.  It’s good to be reminded that all the themes that are in modern black music have been there for a real long time, and artists are still dealing with the same problems and misconceptions from decades ago.  Thanks for being who you are, Curtis.

Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

Oh!  Remember this one from a couple months back??  See, I told you his issues are still playing out in modern times.

Curtis Mayfield – Pusherman



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This one has a lot going for it.  This song is just amazing on its own, I’ve always been a huge fan of it.  Then you’ve got the moves happening onstage, which are really beyond perfect.  I love seeing the different dudes step up to the mic to do their various solo parts, you get to see a face and a little bit of body language and personality with each section which I think really deepens the experience of the song, and then you’ve got the powerful move of all of them stepping up to the mics to do the chorus parts.  Gives me shivers.  THEN, you’ve got the crazy freeze-frame moves going on among the Soul Train dancers!  That shit’s crazy!  I don’t even care that this is a total lip-synch performance, it’s still got so much power and energy, I love it.

The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a Don Cornelius interview with The Temptations on the internet anywhere, so you just get a bonus song by them instead.  I think Eddie Kendricks has braces in this one!

The Temptations – Plastic Man

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I bet there were plenty of people whose first introduction to the Jackson 5 was this performance of their first single on Soul Train.  What an amazing moment that would have been.  And there are some really great moments in the interview too.  I think watching the interviews from the show are just as important as the performances.  You get a feel for the different artists’ personalities as well as the constant presence of Don Cornelius adding an air of weight and power to the otherwise very lighthearted scene.  That juxtaposition is one of the things that makes Soul Train so great, you’ve got this real serious dude taking all this fun, party music real seriously.  That’s a beautiful thing to me.

The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back

I love this interview, it’s so empowering to know that they didn’t have some famous, high-paid choreographer planning out all their dance moves, they worked them out themselves.  And who made all their clothes?  Not a super-hip European designer or anything like that.  They’re made by “a lady by the name of Miss Ruthie West”.  That just makes me really happy.

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After the melancholy news of yesterday, I found myself digging around the internet for juicy Soul Train moments to bask in, and let me just say that there are WAYY too many to count, much less post up here.  But I’m gonna spend at least the next few days putting up some of the juiciest of the juicy performances I’ve come across to share with you all.  If you don’t already love Soul Train and what it provided for black music in America, then maybe you will in a week or so after some of these videos.

I’m gonna start it off with this incredible James Brown medley from 1974, followed by a pretty beautiful interview with the Funky President himself with a surprising appearance by a 19-year-old Al Sharpton.  God this show was amazing.

James Brown – Cold Sweat/Papa’s Bag/Payback/Damn Right I Am Somebody

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Hopefully my sadness is unjustified today.  Hopefully Don Cornelius took his own life today out of a sense of satisfaction and completion of his life and a desire to spare himself and his loved ones the pain and suffering of declining health and old age.  Hopefully there wasn’t some deep despair that eventually consumed this admirable man who accomplished so much in his full, long life.  Whatever the case, I’m gonna be sad about it, and I’m gonna miss him.  RIP Don.

Al Green – For The Good Times

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