Soul Train (1971)

Soul Train was an American musical variety television program that aired from 1971 to 2006 and was created by Don Cornelius, the show’s first host and executive producer. It premiered on August 17, 1970, but Soul Train’s origins go back to 1965 when WCUI-TV, an upstart station in Chicago, began airing Kiddie-a-Go-Go and Red Hot and Blues.  These two programs, which featured predominantly African American dancers, set the stage for Don Cornelius and Soul Train. Three major components facilitated the prominence and success of the show: Cornelius as host with the politics he embodied, the Soul Train dancers, and the music played by the guest performers.  During the 1970s, Soul Train provided a community-forming locus, allowing the show to air across the country and motivate a convergence of African American cultural expression and empowerment.  Also, Soul Train filled the need for the recognition and celebration of blackness.  Lastly, part of the show’s lure was the absence of auditioning for the actors and actresses.  The only way to consistently be on the show was through recommendation from another regular Soul Train dancer.  The show’s cast was therefore a close-knit, family group, which was evident in the production.


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