Soul Train is a cultural institution that has changed and launched the careers of many. Musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the award-winning hip-hop group the Roots has chosen the iconic show as the topic for his second book Soul Train: The Music, Dance and Style of a Generation which landed at book retailers Amazon and Barnes and Nobles on Tuesday.
Nick, who will be bringing Soul Train back to television for a whole new generation on NBC wrote the preface for Questlove’s book.
Check out Nick’s ride on this iconic musical train below:
My earliest memories of Soul Train are of dancing in front of the TV as a toddler. My mom loves to tell those stories. When given the chance, I would choose Soul Train over cartoons. As I got older, I would see different dance moves take off after being showcased on Soul Train. It was an amazing vehicle for dance culture from its very early days. And it was a huge deal or me watching a lot of the dancers start on Soul Train and then, from here, begin to dance for a lot of the major artists of the day.
Soul Train acted as the music curator for the community, as all the new songs and new acts were introduced through the show. Dancing came first fir me, but once I started getting into the music I remember New Edition’s memorable performance. It stood out in a big way for me, and they really set the tone for how Soul Train could evolve. And when the hip-hop acts started, that was big. Artists that I was hearing on my friends’ boom boxes on the basketball courts and on the playground were brought to life through Soul Train. I remember seeing LL Cool J on TV and having a “wow” moment. I thought to myself, so that’s what he looks like. He was a superstar to me.
As an avid fan, I experienced a dream come true with my first national TV appearance: dancing on Soul Train as a fifteen-year-old. I didn’t meet the age requirement, but I managed to sneak in with a few ladies. (And I’d like to take a moment to thank all those ladies who let me roll with them inside the Soul Train set.) Many times after that first performance, I made the two-hour drive to Hollywood on the corner of Gower and Melrose. I was hooked from the beginning. I Wold always make sure to have on my best outfit, get a fresh haircut, and practice all of my dance moves so that I would be chosen. Not only did I love to dance, but I knew appearing on Soul Train had the potential to be my entry into the Hollywood industry in a very real way. It was the only way that I had the opportunity to meet artists and people that were in Hollywood. As a young, aspiring entertainer, I knew Soul Train was a definite foot in the door.
Memories of Soul Train wouldn’t be complete without remembering Don Cornelius. He was the epitome of showbiz. Don really represented the business aspect of it all. Not only was he in front of the camera but he was behind the scenes in all aspects as executive producer. Watching him on camera handling the artists made me think, “I want to do that.” He definitely became a blueprint for a lot of the things I’m doing today. He showed the world what a music industry guy was and he opened the door for so many entertainers. We got closer as the years went on, and I would always remind him of back in the day when I was a nagging, little kid trying to get a record deal from him. I wanted to seize the moment even though I didn’t really know how things worked. I didn’t know there were actually heads of record labels. To me, Don could do everything.
Soul Train is everlasting. It’s done so much for our culture, and I believe in keeping the brand alive. It acts as a history book telling us how artists performed back then. We will always remember how Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5 did it, to name a few. They paved the way for artists to take a chance and come into their own. As the necessary leaders, they laid the foundation for greatness. Their ideas and performances on the show allowed new artists to pick up the torch. Soul Train will continue to educate and inspire for many generations to come.