WASHINGTON (AP) — Before the death of Don Cornelius stirred pangs of Soul Train nostalgia in the American public, a group of black entrepreneurs already had begun working to revive Cornelius’ creation and carry it beyond the continued popularity of the show’s dances and television reruns.
Soul Train Holdings LLC, the entity created by NBA legend and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson when he bought the Soul Train library and brand last year, has a lot of ideas. Among them are bringing a Soul Train variety show back to television. There have been discussions with writers about taking Soul Train to Broadway. Also in the works are film opportunities, potential book deals and, in 2013, the first Soul Train cruise.
BRAND OF A LIFETIME
During a memorial for Cornelius in Los Angeles last week, Johnson assured Cornelius’ son Tony, “The brand that your father has created will last a lifetime.”
Black Entertainment Network LLC, BET, and Centric TV, a BET Network, also has rights to the Soul Train brand and name, and have revamped the Soul Train Awards, which have been the BET network’s second highest-rated special.
There are some 1,100 hours of Soul Train episodes and specials, many of which have only aired once on television. Some are posted on the Soul Train website, reminding viewers of celebrities' past lives.
There is no shortchanging the impact that Soul Train still has today. Well before Cornelius died, Soul Train lines were a staple at weddings or other festive gatherings.
The success of Soul Train got many others in the game, some that had far more resources to devote to the programming. Soul Train had to compete with video shows on BET that broadcast black artists, and eventually MTV and VH-1.
Now the entertainment culture has shifted, where shows featuring black culture are no longer owned solely by African Americans.
BLACK — AND BEYOND
“(Cornelius ) wanted to be able to present black acts on television on what he saw as its most organic context,” said Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African and African-American Studies at Duke University. “He understood correctly there was an interest for that well beyond black communities.”
Photo: Don Cornelius