In Memoriam — 10 Essential Soul Shots From The Soul Train Era

When the Saturday morning cartoons drifted from relevance, we always had Don Cornelius, the host of Soul Train. His voice had a resonance from another world. Soul Train was the American Bandstand for Soul Music. From humble beginnings on WCIU in Chicago to world domination, Soul Train remains an instantly recognizable touchstone for music that lives forever.

Staple Singers-Respect Yourself. Released the year that Soul Train debuted. Don’t miss Mavis at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival. There have been so many times that I’ve played songs on this list on the air and said, “As relevant today as the day it was released.”

James Brown-It’s Too Funky In Here. Actually, not possible. The Godfather from 1979. Local music trivia: The Nicholas Tremulus Orchestra used to do a monster version of this in the ’80’s.

The Isley Brothers-Climbing the Ladder. You want to talk guitar solos? Share this with a friend who can handle the funk.

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The Ohio Players-Fire. Their salacious album covers were not always appropriate so send them to me. This video shows the Soul Train studio audience dancing to “Fire,” in case you’ve wondered where I learned my mad dance skills.

Temptations-Papa Was A Rolling Stone. Every September 3rd that I’ve been on the radio, I have played this classic. My actual preference is the nearly 7 minute album version.

Average White Band-Cut the Cake. 1975 Soul Train appearance. I hope I’m not going out on a limb to say this is the funkiest Scottish group ever.

Aretha Franklin-Rock Steady. Good. God. Almighty.

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Marvin Gaye-Got to Give It Up. Cowbell, party sound effects, and Marvin. Sublime.

Bill Withers-Use Me. A phenomenal live version but not from Soul Train, where most of the performances were lip-synched. Mick Jagger did a version of this some years back. Not even close.

Stevie Wonder-Superstition. From 1972-1976, Stevie Wonder released Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and the opus, Songs in the Key of Life. Who else in the history of popular music has thrown down a stretch of albums like that? Precious few.

End Of The Line For Soul Train’s Don Cornelius

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