Black History Month often means a lot of programming featuring African-Americans but not a lot of actual history.
But tonight at 9:30, VHI premieres "Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America" a documentary on the iconic show that gives plenty of history, culture and nostalgia. I luuuved it!
I'll admit to having a significant jones for "Soul Train," (love those reruns on Centric; will happily buy the coming Time-Life videos) but I still think my assessment is clearheaded. Narrated by actor Terrence Howard, the show is chock full of information about the beginnings and influence of the show, especially the business savvy of Don Cornelius.
Cornelius was a deejay who created the show, a black "American Bandstand" and ended up owning it outright almost accidentally. When he moved the show from Chicago to California, he struck gold.
The Soul Train dancers, some of whom are featured in the documentary, (but not Damita Jo Freeman!) taught everyone to dance and dress all for a box lunch of chicken, their payment for a day of dancing. (That's a young Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel in the picture who became two-thirds of Shalimar via Soul Train.)
Cornelius, meanwhile, trailblazed as a businessman. Besides owning the show, he aligned with black hair care companies, raising their profiles and securing financial success. One of the laugh-out-loud moments in this doc is the Afro Sheen commercial featuring Frederick Douglass.
You see snippets of great performances by Al Green, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five (it was from the Soul Train dancers that MJ learned the robot and the moonwalk), and you'll be answer this trivia question: Who was the first white performer to appear on the show?
The doc also shows Cornelius struggling with the advent of disco, and, especially, rap. (He breaks Kurtis Blow's heart.)
I could go on, but just watch it and reaffirm your commitment to love, peace and soooul!