A Look Back At 28 Memorable 'Soul Train' Performances

Celebrating "Love, Peace, Soul!"
Aretha Franklin with show host and producer Don Cornelius. Franklin was one of many entertainers who performed on 'Soul Train
Aretha Franklin with show host and producer Don Cornelius. Franklin was one of many entertainers who performed on 'Soul Train' in the 1970''s.

In 1970, Don Cornelius created the first musical television show catered to black audiences with the cultural phenomenon of “Soul Train.”

Launched as a local television program in Chicago in 1970, the music variety show ― hosted by Cornelius ― was syndicated in other national markets a year later and it ran until 2006. Similar to Dick Clark’s music-performance show “American Bandstand,” “Soul Train” featured guests dancing to latest music hits and served as a platform to showcase black music acts, including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Janet Jackson, and Destiny’s Child. 

The influential show also spawned the creation of the /"}}">Soul Train dance line and, eventually became the longest running nationally-syndicated /"}}">music program in television history.

Cornelius said during a 2010 USA Today interview that he launched the show to give viewers an alternative to then-popular talk shows, “The Mike Douglas Show,” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” which were mostly targeted to a general market audience.

“Back then, there was no targeted television and I just had the sense that television shouldn’t be that way,” he said. “The primary mission of the show was to provide TV exposure for people who would not get it otherwise. People who didn’t get invited to The Mike Douglas Show, or (Johnny) Carson. There was no ethnic television, just general-market television, which meant mostly white people.”

In honor of Cornelius, who passed away on Feb. 1, 2012, and the impact he had on popular culture, we decided to highlight 28 of our favorite performances on “Soul Train.”

  • Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson - "Ooo Baby Baby" (1979)
  • The Jackson 5 -- "Dancing Machine" (1973)
  • James Brown -- "Get On The Good Foot" (1973)
  • New Edition -- "Jealous Girl" (1983)
  • Vanity 6 - "Nasty Girl" (1982)
  • Janet Jackson -- "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (1986)
  • Rufus & Chaka Khan -- "Tell Me Something Good" (1974)
  • Labelle -- "Lady Marmalade" (1974)
  • Marvin Gaye -- "Let's Get It On" (1974)
  • Grandmaster Flash -- "The Message" (1983)
  • Run D.M.C. -- "Rock Box" (1984)
  • Destiny's Child -- "Bills, Bills, Bills" (1999)
  • Nelly -- "Ride Wit Me" (2001)
  • Ja Rule Ft Ashanti -- "Always On Time" (2002)
  • Guy -- "Groove Me" (1988)
  • Al B Sure - "Nite And Day" (1988)
  • Mariah Carey -- "Can't Let Go" (1992)
  • Keith Sweat - "I Want Her" (1988)
  • Eric B & Rakim -- "I Know You Got Soul" and "ABC" (1987)
  • Stevie Wonder -- "Superstition" (1973)
  • LL Cool J -- "I Can't Live Without My Radio" (1986)
  • Michel'le -- "No More Lies" (1990)
  • Teena Marie - "I Need Your Lovin'" (1980)
  • Al Green -- "Let's Stay Together" (1972)
  • The Sugarhill Gang -- "Rappers Delight" (1981)
  • Usher -- "Think Of You" (1995)
  • Aaliyah -- "One In A Million" (1996)
  • Don Cornelius Dances in Soul Train Line With Mary Wilson (1973)