There was a time in the ’60s when the image of the black teenager came from the news. There was a lot of rioting. There were a lot of marches. And sometimes the nightly news was not a place where you could get a three-dimensional view of a person or a group. Don Cornelius saved the esteem of a race. His Soul Train enabled America to see us in a different light, in a celebrative and expressive way. We were granted rights and privileges in 1968, but who was going to soothe your soul and tell you that you were somebody? Soul Train was perfect for that.
The Soul Train dance line was the most iconic part of the show, the part people couldn’t wait for. Before the VCR, you had to learn how to dance, and you had to learn quick. Whatever they were doing, you would emulate, and you would pray to God that you had an awesome memory. You had exactly three minutes and 30 seconds to learn whatever dances you could so that come Saturday night, it would be time to party.
Don Cornelius’ lasting legacy will be his sign-off: it summed up this utopian place where different cultures could share “Love, peace and soul.”
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