Feb 1, 2012
As a child of the 70's, Don Cornelus' "Soul Train" was far more relevant to me than it's stodgy older brother, "American Bandstand." As David Wild points out in his Huffington Post commentary today, it was more than just a TV show, but "kind of weekly master class in soul music".
Cornelius died earlier today from what is being called a self-inflicted gun shot wound. His tragic death takes from us the man who literally changed the face of black music, bringing acts such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Earth Wind & Fire to national TV audiences who might well have never seen their acts.
Cornelius was a part-time news announcer on AM radio in Chicago when he left to create “Soul Train” in 1970. From its local start on Chicago’s WCIU-TV, the show generated a national version based in Los Angeles that grew through syndication to more than 130 stations in 1989. Expanding his franchise, Cornelius created the annual Soul Train Music Awards in 1987. Cornelius, who hosted “Soul Train” until 1993, produced his last new episode in 2006. In 2008, he sold the franchise to Los Angeles-based MadVision Entertainment, which planned to open the show’s archives for older viewers and create a new version of the program, the New York Times reported at the time.
The memorable theme song for the show, “T.S.O.P. (“The Sound of Philadelphia”) became a number one hit, and brought to prominence a group of musicians who were as important to 70’s soul and R&B as the Funk Brothers were to Motown and The Fame Gang were to the Muscle Shoals Sound. Called MFSB – some say it stood for “Mother Father Sister Brother” others for the more coarse “Muther-F*kin Sons of Bitches” – the band included Karl Chambers and Earl Young on drums; Norman Harris, Roland Chambers, Bobby Eli, and TJ Tindall on guitar; Winnie Wilford and Ronnie Baker on bass; Vincent Montana, Jr. and Larry Washington on vibes and percussion, Harold Ivory Williams on keyboards, plus Leon Huff and Thom Bell on keyboards and Don Renaldo on strings and horns featuring Rocco Bene on trumpet. Several members of the group moved on to Salsoul Records, where they became known as The Salsoul Orchestra. MFSB and Salsoul Orchestra tunes have been covered and sampled hundred of times, most notably by LL Cool J and De La Soul.