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Get down, get funky with the Yellow Magic Orchestra on ‘Soul Train’
04.28.2017
10:07 am
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Ten artists who have performed on Soul Train, but one is a lie: Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, Sugarhill Gang, Stevie Wonder, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Jackson 5, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin. The natural assumption would be to guess YMO, but you would be mistaken. Otis Redding passed away four years prior to the show’s premiere. And as odd as it sounds, YMO were on Soul Train!

Originally airing on November 29th, 1980, the Yellow Magic Orchestra feature on Soul Train was well out of the ordinary; but in no way was it out of place. Playing to an enthusiastic crowd (including their manager dressed as a camera-festooned Japanese tourist), the electronic music pioneers opened with their suitable rendition of Archie Bell & the Drells’ classic 1968 R&B funk track “Tighten Up” followed by their own hit, “Firecracker.”

Having released their first record two years prior, the Yellow Magic Orchestra were the biggest band in Japan by the time they appeared on Soul Train. An even more gratifying accomplishment was YMO’s lasting contribution to the music world as early innovators of the electronic dance music genre. During the brief interview that follows the performance, Don Cornelius asks drummer Yukihiro Takahashi what current sound YMO best resembles? He pauses for a long time before answering. There really was nothing else like the group at that time except, perhaps, for Kraftwerk (who Cornelius was clearly not familiar with).
 
Watch Yellow Magic Orchestra on ‘Soul Train’ after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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04.28.2017
10:07 am
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‘Show Me Your Soul’: Amazing ‘Soul Train’ documentary from French television
03.21.2017
09:24 am
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Show Me Your Soul: The Soul Train Years is a 2013 documentary produced for French television by filmmaker Pascal Forneri (who also directed the critically-acclaimed 2010 documentary Gainsbourg & his Girls). It uses wonderful rare footage, archival photographs, and brand new interviews to take the very first in-depth look at the history of Soul Train. Forneri not only highlights the amazing soul and R&B artists who performed on the program over its 35 year, 1,100 episode run, but also the real stars of the show: the in-studio dancers who would set the standard for future generations of contemporary urban dance.
 

 
Several recurring Soul Train dancers are spotlighted in this documentary who provide a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the show came together. Most of the dancers were not professionally trained, they would spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets to fly themselves out to Hollywood from cities all over the U.S. to be on the show. Those determined few who didn’t make the cut at the audition would sneak themselves onto the studio lot by any means necessary: including one dancer who got onto the set by hiding himself in the trunk of a car. As the show’s popularity in American households increased, so did the dancer’s popularity: week after week they’d try to outdo one another. First by their dance moves which became more and more wild, then by their fashion choices. Some dancers were so eager to get in front of the camera that they started bringing in props (a man known as “Mr. X” became famous for his dance routine that included a large, oversized toothbrush). Dancers began getting recognized on the streets of their home cities as if they were veritable celebrities.
 

 
Visionary host Don Cornelius always stated that Soul Train was a home for soul artists regardless of their race, and featured a long list of white artists who appealed to black audiences: Gino Vannelli, David Bowie, Beastie Boys, Elton John, Teena Marie, Hall & Oates, Pet Shop Boys, and Spandau Ballet were amongst the many white artists who appeared on the program over the years. As music trends slowly began to change, Don Cornelius struggled to keep Soul Train true to his original vision. When disco went mainstream, Cornelius made sure the show focused on only the most soulful disco artists that were being played on the radio. When rap music went commercial, however, Cornelius could not hide his contempt for the genre and made it very clear from the beginning that he wouldn’t get behind hip hop. Forneri documents this well, showing footage of Cornelius hanging his head in disgust following a performance by Public Enemy. As he slowly approaches Chuck D. and Flavor Fav for an interview he begins with a very long pause, and then exclaims, “That was frightening.” In the middle of a Kurtis Blow interview, Cornelius awkwardly admits on television “It’s so much fun, I mean, it doesn’t make sense to old guys like me. I don’t understand why they love it so much but that ain’t my job is it? My job is to deal with it and we’re dealing with it,” which was followed by uncomfortable laughter from the studio audience.
 
Watch ‘Show Me Your Soul: The Soul Train Years’ after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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03.21.2017
09:24 am
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The Beastie Boys punk ‘Soul Train’
11.05.2015
08:02 am
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“Shadrach,” from the Beastie Boys’ psychedelic collage masterpiece Paul’s Boutique, should have been a hit. The band made a gorgeous rotoscope video for the song and featured the tune prominently on the EP An Exciting Evening at Home with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but “Shadrach,” with its sample from Sly and the Family Stone’s “Loose Booty,” its mystical wisdom, and its defiant tone, proved just too stupid fresh for the suits at Capitol to get behind.

When the Beasties paid their second and last visit to Soul Train (see their first appearance here), they wanted to perform “Shadrach” live, but host Don Cornelius said no. From Dan LeRoy’s book on Paul’s Boutique (my favorite number in the 33 1/3 series, which last year spawned a sequel co-authored by the excellent Peter Relic):

The Beasties got revenge, says [their friend] Max Perlich, by preparing a special version of “Shadrach,” which included the soundbite, “Do the Don Cornelius.” “He freaked on the spot, because he thought it was live,” remembers Perlich. “And he stopped the taping. But they said, ‘No, this is on the record.’ So they got away with it.”

 

 
In other words, forced to mime their mighty jam on TV, these world-class practical jokers modified “Shadrach” (doesn’t it almost rhyme with “Ad-Rock”?) to at once sound live and to poke fun at Cornelius, who was left believing that the Beastie Boys’ latest single paid him tribute. At least, I think he was; he seems a little confused during the interview that follows the song, which departs a little more from the recorded version than LeRoy suggests. You’ll see. It’s nuts.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering why the Beasties are rapping about three characters from the Book of Daniel, LeRoy says that their split with Def Jam is not so neatly identifiable with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s righteous refusal to bow down before the image of Nebuchadnezzar as you, or they, might be tempted to think; he also reports that Adam Yauch “was then spending lots of time ‘taking acid and reading the Bible,’ according to his girlfriend, Lisa Ann Cabasa.” I wish he was still around.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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11.05.2015
08:02 am
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When the Staple Singers covered Talking Heads on Soul Train
07.07.2015
09:39 am
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By the time Pops Staples sang “Papa Legba” in David Byrne’s movie True Stories, the relationship between the Staple Singers and Talking Heads was already well-established. In 1984, the Staples had a minor hit with their cover of Speaking in Tongues’ “Slippery People,” on which Byrne played guitar, and which they promoted with an appearance on Soul Train. I prefer it to the original.

Biographer Greg Kot writes that the idea for the single came from a producer the two groups shared. From Kot’s I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the Music That Shaped the Civil Rights Era:

When the songwriting-production team of Gary Goetzman and Mike Piccirillo persuaded the Staples to record “Slippery People,” they enlisted Byrne to play guitar. “Gary was a producer on Stop Making Sense and he was instrumental in helping me get [the 1986 Byrne-directed movie] True Stories off the ground,” Byrne says. “He produced records as well as movies, and he and his production partner had the idea to find contemporary material that the Staples could cover that would also sound like something they might have written. ‘Slippery People’—just the title alone sounds like a song they could have written. Musically, it was definitely influenced by gospel—its very gospel call-and-response chorus made it a natural fit for them.”

Byrne’s Gumby-like dance moves for Stop Making Sense had been in part inspired by the way worshippers in Southern sanctified churches responded when filled with the Holy Spirit, their bodies writhing and undulating while speaking in tongues. “David’s inspiration was seeing people in church, and that’s what I connected with,” Mavis Staples says. “My head went off into the Bible.”

With Byrne’s chattering guitar skipping atop a grid of percolating percussion, the Staples’ version of “Slippery People” cast Pops in the role of the preacher and Mavis as the congregation responding to his sermon. She sounds like she’s scatting in tongues, a brilliant jazzy take on Deep South church tradition.

The single rose to number 22 on the R&B chart and anchored the group’s 1984 Turning Point album as part of a two-album deal with Private I Records, a subsidiary of CBS Inc.

 

 
Then 70, Pops talks about emerging from retirement and the success of “Slippery People” in the post-performance interview with Don Cornelius below. On their next LP, the Staple Singers interpreted “Life During Wartime,” with less exciting results—the production makes me picture Chevy Chase behind the wheel of a convertible with a dog in the passenger seat, but I’m not sure that’s what they had in mind.

Slippery People (club version):

Live on Soul Train:

 
Thank you Adam Payne!

Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.07.2015
09:39 am
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A Tribute to the ‘Prince of Motown’: Marvin Gaye on ‘Soul Train’ 1983

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A few months after the release of Midnight Love in 1982, Marvin Gaye told N.M.E.:

I don’t make records for pleasure. I did when I was a younger artist, but I don’t today. I record so that I can feed people what they need, what they feel. Hopefully, I record so that I can help someone overcome a bad time.

Midnight Love was to be Marvin’s last complete album, and was the biggest selling record of his career at that time, selling 6-million copies worldwide. Its release, coming after a self-imposed exile in Belgium, marked a major development in Marvin’s song-writing and performing talents, with its   eclectic mix of influences, Soul, Funk, Synth Pop, and Reggae, that the “Prince of Soul”  made unmistakably his own. 

Midnight Love was considered by many critics to be the album of the year, and in June 1983, Marvin showcased (lip-synched) a selection of songs from this classic album on a special edition of Soul Train.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.28.2013
10:40 am
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James Brown: Getting on his good foot, ‘Soul Train’ 1973
05.02.2013
05:32 pm
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Here comes the Super Brother—James Brown hitting the spot and getting mystical about education (“The only way you can live is to know. And to not to know, you can never live”) on Soul Train in 1973. He gives a slower, funkier version of “Sex Machine” (listen to that guitar) and impressive versions of “Try Me,” “Get On The Good Foot,” “Soul Power” and the excellent “Escapism.”
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.02.2013
05:32 pm
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Gorgeous Donna Summer mural by Serve
05.18.2012
08:54 am
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Via Ego Trip:

Moved by the news of Donna Summer’s death, South Bronx-bred aerosol artist and DJ, SERVE (a/k/a SERVE ONE), wasted no time painting the stunning mural pictured above in homage to the late singer. With “Last Dance” – the title of Summer’s 1978 classic – emblazoned by an iconic image from the cover of her Live & More LP of the same year, it’s a beautiful piece of work. “I just had to do it…” SERVE wrote on his Facebook wall to the enthusiastic response of friends. Props, SERVE. RIP, Donna Summer.

Beautiful.

Here’s another thing of rare beauty, Donna performing the wonderful “Spring Affair” from the Four Seasons Of Love EP on Soul Train:
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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05.18.2012
08:54 am
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RIP Don Cornelius of Soul Train
02.01.2012
09:50 am
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Don Cornelius, creator and star of Soul Tain, has been found dead at his home in Sherman Oaks, California. From TMZ:

Law enforcement sources tell us ... Cornelius died from a gunshot wound to the head and officials believe the wound was self-inflicted.

Sad news indeed - I had only posted on Soul Train here on DM a few weeks ago. Thanks for all the awesomeness, Don! In memory here’s the man himself introducing the legendary Soul Train line dancers to Earth Wind and Fire’s “Mighty Mighty” in 1974:
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Have Yourself A Soul Train Sunday

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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02.01.2012
09:50 am
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Have yourself a ‘Soul Train’ Sunday
01.15.2012
08:38 pm
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And why the hell not? Here are some classic clips from Soul Train that are guaranteed to make you feel good, and maybe even get up and shake your ass!

You know, with all the Seventies-related posts here on DM, it’s good to remember that the decade was not all about white boys with guitars (though some of the clips below are from the early 80s too). These dancers are hot as hell - without resorting to showing acres of flesh - and isn’t it nice to see people actually interacting with each other when they dance?

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes “Bad Luck”
 

 
After the jump, Kool & The Gang, Rufus & Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, Trussell and Yellow Magic Orchestra…

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Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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01.15.2012
08:38 pm
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Moon Shoes Boogieland: the best of Soul Train line dances
07.25.2011
12:15 pm
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I like how someone points out in the YouTube comments that Americans are too fat to dance like this anymore.

 
(via Nerdcore)

Posted by Tara McGinley
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07.25.2011
12:15 pm
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David Bowie VS. Booker T: Hammond B3 meets ‘Fame’ on Soul Train

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The Brat mashes up David Bowie performing ‘Fame’ on Soul Train with Booker T’s ‘Potato Hole’ and I like it. That Hammond B3 adds some serious soul sauce to Bowie’s classic.

David’s performance of ‘Fame’ on Soul Train is not commercially available and that’s a drag.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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11.27.2010
01:31 am
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