Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Hippest Trip in America

The last I talked to you, I didn't know what to wear for New Year's Eve. You'll be relieved to know I figured it out and a good time was had by all.
I had a different blog post written for today, all about how wonderfully all of our resolutions are probably going (right?)...but I'm going to save that for next time.
Today I have to talk about Soul Train.

On the morning of February 1st, while getting my much needed daily Matt Lauer fix, they made the announcement that Don Cornelius had died. I remember gasping and saying," No, no, no..." aloud. I'd like to add here that I was alone and there was no one (except Avalon the bunny) to hear my uttering cry of disbelief.

I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. In reality it's not that small, population 25,000, but growing up I was certain it was population 500. That's how small and contained ( and boring ) it felt to me growing up there.
So Saturdays were all about waiting for it to be 11am, to first watch American Bandstand with my sister and then she would be tired of having to "watch me “ while Mom was at work, and she would retreat to her bedroom and listen to Casey Kasem and American Top 40 on the radio.

Then....then started the absolute highlight of my week (and life sometimes).  I would change the channel to WGN Chicago and watch Soul Train. Soul Train from Chicago, where nothing, I was sure, was ever boring or small, and where people danced and enjoyed themselves all the time. No one was ever sad or mad or lonely because there was always music and dancing.  The show was like magic to me.  Some secret world of my own that I shared with the people on the TV.  Who were these people having the time of their life and why didn't I know them?

This ritual began at the age of 4. It began my love affair with Chicago and music and dancing. For whatever reason I can't explain, I was the only one in my family who loved Soul Train.  I always remember watching it alone. My mother (if she wasn't at work) was just glad I was entertaining myself for awhile and she didn’t have to wonder what to do with me. (I have a very low tolerance for sittin’ around.)
My sister and brother didn’t want a whole lot to do with me. I don’t mean that in a horrible way, just in your basic brother/sister annoyance way. I was not who they wanted to hang out with. Being so much younger than both, 7 years younger than my sister, 10 years younger than my brother, it was a bit like growing up as an only child at times.  So there I would be, 2 inches away from the TV, studying everything and pretending I was one of them.  And listening to Don Cornelius with that voice.  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just call him up and have him come to our house and read to me. “Chicago is not that far away,” I would think. “I’m sure he could sleep on the couch, Mom wouldn’t mind.”

I would dance (which I still love but am not good at) along with the soul train dancers and would work myself into quite a frenzy of happiness.  And then......Ohhh, and then it was time for the Soul Train line and I would hardly be able to contain my joy and thrill that this happened every week. Sometimes I would worry that they would forget to do it.  I would line up my stuffed animals and some of my parents’ album covers that had faces on them (think Carpenters, Johnny Cash, Lynn Anderson. Cool, right?) to make my very own Soul Train line and I would dance my little self in between them. Then Don would wish me personally, I was sure, love, peace and sooooouuuul. And I wondered how I was going to make it a whole week to see Soul Train, Don and my dancing friends again.

Strangely enough, while I was back in MN for the holidays, there was a wonderful documentary on VH-1 called “ Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America,” about how the show got started, about Don, about the dancers. I watched it with my mom and sister and they both said,” I don’t remember any of this.” “I remember every second,” I said.

A nice Soul Train compilation video, including Don in the Soul Train line, and Stevie Wonder....complete with Love, Peace and Soul at the end!

The Soul Train line to Rufus and Chaka Kahn, Dance With Me:

On Saturday February 4, on Centric TV (channel 474 if you have Comcast cable) there is a Soul Train marathon all day.

Some things going on this weekend::

Giants Fan Fest, Saturday February 4 at AT&T Park

San Francisco Antiquarian Book Print and paper Fair

Alameda Pointe Antique Faire


  1. So glad this is back!

  2. Thank you for your writing.

  3. I loved Soul Train for a very different reason: Up until then my TV music came in the form of American Band Stand, Hullabaloo, Shindig, and Ed Sullivan. When I looked at the audiences of those shows I never saw "myself". Then Soul Train came along and, finally, I could see "myself" on TV. In all my afro-ed glory. With all my smooooth moves. I miss Soul Train. I miss the Soul Train Line. And I miss Don Cornelius. Oh that voice! RIP, Don, we wish you love, peace... and SOUL!