“You don’t need no ticket, you just get on board.” Curtis Mayfield, “People Get Ready”

It is unbelievable that Don Cornelius and Dick Clark have the same initials. These two individuals stood like a double headed coin at the forefront of popular music, clothes and dance culture until MTV changed everything.

Don Cornelius invented Soul Train. He was Soul Train. He had local events in Chicago called The Soul Train before it became a nationally syndicated program representing Black or Urban culture. It really took off in the Seventies.

In fact it was so popular, Dick Clark tried to do his take called Soul Unlimited, but, it didn’t work out too well for him.  While Dick Clark’s American Bandstand was an established platform for Top 40 Artists starting early on, by the Seventies, Soul, Funk and Rhythm and Blues were big enough on their own to be separated out of just Top 40 representation.

There were only a few white Artists that made it on Soul Train, most notably David Bowie when he was going through his “Philly blue eyed soul” phase. “Fame” would be something that was not a groove wannabe but a bonafide Soul Train hit. Interestingly enough, the song was co-penned by a Beatle, John Lennon, who played guitar and sang back up tracks on the recording as well.

I grew up in Fresno, California. Fresno was into everything.  

It was just as easy to put on “The World is a Ghetto ‘and “Superfly” as well as “Slow Ride” and “Walk This Way.”  I know Fresno was different. I have lived in several areas in California and other states. I got it all in Fresno. We listened to San Joaquin Valley’s own, Buck Owens; the Oakland East Bay funk of Tower of Power, as well as the English band, Supertramp was big then.

Soul Train started going national in the Seventies. Soul Train would start fashion trends and music trends before American Bandstand.  It seemed like you could watch what they were doing on Soul Train and see it happen a month later on American Bandstand. The only difference is American  Bandstand would stare back at you in the camera while barely moving while Soul Train was all about the beat and the dance.

Soul Train is where platform shoes, cuffed bell bottoms and Leisure Suits started.  Every once in a while somebody on American Bandstand could dance, but, it was a pre-requisite on Soul Train.

As MTV was starting to change things, American Bandstand became more of a nostalgia trip going into 1984, but, Soul Train was still an important icon of Urban Music and Style.  It took a few more years before that all changed.

There was a legacy with the BET Soul Train Music Award, but, you cannot imagine the power that Don Cornelius and Dick Clark had in the Seventies on popular youth culture.

The best representation of my growing up with Soul Train and American Bandstand is the concert I’m going to in a couple of months, Kool & The Gang opening up for Van Halen. It’s all good and I won’t be late.

Hollywood Swingin’! “…and as always, we wish you love, peace and soul!”

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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