The Soul Train Documentary on VH-1

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, be sure to set your DVR for the next airing of VH-1’s Soul Train: The Hippest Trip In America. Yes, buried amongst VH-1’s vapid, putrid pile of reality shows is actually a quality 90 minute documentary about the late great Soul Train – a show that lasted 36 years (the longest running syndicated show in TV history). It was interesting to learn the full story behind the show, and the groundbreaking genius of Don Cornelius – who owned and produced the show from its inception in 1970 – when it was broadcast locally in Chicago – all the way to its finale in 2006.

It goes without saying how influential and groundbreaking the show was – providing an outlet for Black American performers, dancers, and their viewers at home. Even the first TV commercials ever targeted to an African American audience appeared on Soul Train. It only took a couple of years for the show to become a smash, even spawning a Dick Clark-produced “Soul Unlimited”, which Cornelius quickly snuffed out. Its crossover appeal touched me personally too. In the early-mid 80’s when Prince’s music took me by storm, and I immersed myself in popular black music, I spent hours watching Soul Train – and forming adolescent fantasies around some of those dancers. Yow!

My only complaint about the special was its short running time (90 minutes – 60 if you’re DVR’ing thru the commercials). It didn’t leave a lot of time to focus on the legendary performances (James Brown, Aretha, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and on and on …). The clips were abbreviated, and left you wanting more. My favorite clip of the doc was this Al Green performance of “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)”. The first thing I did afterward was march to the Mac and find the full performance…

Next broadcasts of the documentary are:

  • Saturday, Feb. 13th – 12:30am ET/PT
  • Friday, March 5th – 12am ET/PT


  • Mike

    Absolutely a fantastic special, and I agree that it was WAY too short. VH-1 (or Centric) needs to just run a week-long marathon of Soul Train episodes. Damn, I miss that show.

    • Pete

      Mike – totally agree that we need a Soul Train marathon. I wish our beloved “music channels” of yore would return to the music. But it ain’t happening any time soon. Not while there’s money to be made following imbeciles around with cameras.

    • Pete

      I neglected to mention that live performances like Al’s were rare on Soul Train (uh, DUH, I know). Like Bandstand, most performances were lip-synched.

      Bowie’s lip-synch of “Fame”, as he admitted in the doc, was especially sub-par. He said he’d never “learned” how to lip-synch to the song, and stumbled along trying to keep up. Great stuff.

      Thin white duke indeed:

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