Don Cornelius took his own life today. We don't yet know why. Was he ill? depressed? he had been arrested a few years ago and accused of domestic assault. He got a divorce. Was he a bad man, or was he entering confused and ill? did he no longer want to live in his body? had he suffered from depression during his life? was he an alcoholic? I really don't know anything more about what his life was like off the show, or why he would kill himself. But for many people of my generation (a junior baby boomer), his voice and the Soul Train show were a significant part of our world.
When Soul Train began to broadcast, back in 1970, it figured in my Saturday routine, along with cartoons. I was 11-12, but when we had just moved back to the United States from Japan in 1968, we three kids could finally watch TV in English, and we LOVED those Saturday morning cartoons. I didn't watch Soul Train every single Saturday, but I looked forward to it, and I adored the dancing. Don Cornelius's voice, his snappy outfits, and the music he brought us --because it was HIS show--- were a presence in my life, along with his shout-out at the end, "Love! Peace! and Soul!" Nobody else in my family really cared about the show, and I didn't have friends to watch it with, but it gave me a lot of joy.
In high school in the early seventies, at our dances or parties, there was always a Soul Train moment, when we'd dance down the line. Looking at this Stevie Wonder video, this WAS how we danced then, and how I still dance now. Soul Train was where we saw the latest dance moves, and the latest urban fashions. Jeans and sneakers were not yet a uniform for kids, let alone for people of all ages. We dressed up every day. We wore outfits. (Actually, we wore pretty ridiculous outfits, but that's another post.)
Don Cornelius had the most amazing voice. He always treated the
musicians with respect. Toward the 9' mark in this video, Stevie sings a
little impromptu song he made up for the event. So sweet! "Soul Train,
with Don Cornelius/Where all the brothers and sisters get together."I'm so fortunate to have seen Stevie Wonder perform in concert when he was still this young, and I wouldn't have known about him just from my radio. Look at how thin everyone looks here, in 1971!
Some of the music was lip-synced, sure, but so much of it was played live as well. Sly and the Family Stone perform "Thank You" live:
What a kick-ass, funky performance of this song!