The March 13 Soul Train awards fall during the show?s 25th-anniversary year. To celebrate, we hooked up with Don Cornelius, 58, the show?s godfather, to discuss his 790-episode haul through American pop culture.
What was your goal when you thought up Soul Train?
When I started the show on a small UHF station, I was just kind of having a good time. The concept had all kinds of possibilities. Even though it was a local show in Chicago, we felt it would travel-soul music going from city to city as a train would.
Who instilled the love of music in you?
You cannot get away from it growing up in Chicago. It was a blues town. It was an R&B town. It was a jazz town. As a consequence you ended up being a connoisseur.
Name some of your favorite shows.
The Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin or James Brown and B.B. King duets. Luther Vandross is the American Pavarotti, and the first TV show he did was Soul Train.
Who came up with that squealing ?Sooull Traain? opening?
A friend I worked with at WVON came up with that line, that voice, that texture. It was made in 1970, and we still use the same tape.
Does rap music?s image concern you?
Imagery doesn?t concern me at all. Profanity, bad taste, and any product that celebrates hopelessness does. I protest that!
Did you ever think you?d become part of music history?
The reason I?ve been around so long is that I?ve never really taken myself all that seriously. I put things together and bring people together. That doesn?t make me a star. I don?t trip on that.