"Soul Train" derails

Music awards show is also gone -for now. But a Soul Train Movie is in development

In the post below, I mentioned the fate of U.S. Farm Report, one of two programs which were left hanging after the shuttering of Tribune Entertainment. Now the other shoe has dropped for the other show.

The Soul Train Music Awards was canceled this year, apparently a casualty of the recent Writer’s Guild strike and the closing of Tribune’s syndication operation. But major African-American artists have stopped showing up to the awards show over the years, perhaps earlier sealing its fate, and the fact many stations in recent years have aired the awards show tape-delayed in late fringe or overnight time slots.

Don Cornelius, the creator and executive producer of Soul Train, said he hopes the awards show returns next year.

As for the show itself, it is indeed official – the program has ended its long run, with the last installment airing in 2006. However, a Soul Train movie is in development, and could hit theaters in 2009.

There is a report that Trifecta Entertainment has picked up the rights to reruns of Soul Train, which have been running in syndication since June 2006. But the company has not been able to confirm or deny this, since the company’s website does not mention the show. Trifecta earlier picked up the rights to another former Tribune property, American Idol Rewind.

Thought: While Chicago’s TV production is more known for Oprah, Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones, and other shows, some people don’t know that Soul Train began its life in Chicago in 1970 at WCIU-TV as a daily strip. The program went into weekly national syndication in 1971, when production moved to Los Angeles, and ran an amazing 35 years. I practically grew up watching this show in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and it provided a window into black culture no other show could (remember the Soul Train scramble board?). Among the many people who danced on Soul Train include football players Fred Williamson and Walter Payton, and future pop and R&B star Jody Watley.

Don Cornelius was one of the hardest-working individuals in this business, producing this program and its various specials – but he usually wasn’t recognized for it. And that’s a shame. He deserves as much recognition as Bill Cosby for positive African-American contributions to the television industry. Cornelius was host of Soul Train until 1993, when he decided to stay behind the camera.

Soul Train motored on after other music programs like American Bandstand, Solid Gold, and The Midnight Special have passed on. Unfortunately, the changing nature of the both the music and television businesses (and not for the better) have caught up to Soul Train, and became a victim of mostly late fringe and overnight time slots in many markets in recent years. Soul Train may be gone, but the spirit of “Love, peace, and Soooooooooooul!” and “The hippest trip in America” lives on.