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Television Tue Sep 06 2011

"Soul Train's" 40th Anniversary, Chicago Style

Photo courtesy of: Expo 72

"Soul Train," the syndicated dance show that for over 30 years was considered Saturday morning "must-see TV," pulled into Chicago in a huge way to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Through photography exhibits, film screenings and other events over the summer, the celebration culminated in a free Labor Day concert last night in Millennium Park.

Of course, the show is mostly known for being in Los Angeles; however, lifelong Chicagoans know about "Soul Train's" humble beginnings when it debuted on WCIU-Channel 26 in 1970 with its "conductor," Chicago's own Don Cornelius. Although the show is no longer on the air, except for occasional episodes on some cable stations, there is no denying its indelible impact on American culture.

Hosted by veteran radio personalities V103's Herb "The Cool Gent" Kent and Richard Steele, the "Chicago's Soul Train 40th Anniversary Concert" which featured an amazing live orchestra led by "Tom Tom" Washington, was a "who's who" of legendary Chicago soul groups including The Emotions, The Chi-Lites, The Impressions and Jerry "The Iceman" Butler. While Cornelius himself didn't actually host, much to the packed Pritzker Pavilion's delight, he did grace the audience with his signature "Soul-Train" sign-off, "Love, peace and sooouuul!"

Thumbnail image for DON C.jpg

The energized crowd, with folks who came from far and near, was both multigenerational and multicultural, undoubtedly a testament to "Soul Train's" legacy -- and there was no doubt that Cornelius -- forever in his laid-back style, enjoyed the festivities just as much as the audience.

In addition to the soulful music, one of the evening's highlights was 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett presenting Cornelius with an honorary "Don Cornelius Way" street sign that will go up at the corner of Madison and Halsted, the location of WCIU's headquarters. "This is the biggest thing that ever happened to me," said Cornelius.
Another highlight was the grand finale that included the entire line-up, all returning to the stage for the classic "People Get Ready," as a tribute to the late Curtis Mayfield.

When it came to this train, there was no "Red" or "Blue" line, no slow zones and no frustrated passengers -- just one express ride, with soul as the final stop.

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Doc / September 6, 2011 2:02 PM

Great article on the concert! I really enjoyed being there because it brought back so many great memories with the music they played and the acts that performed. It got a bit frustrating with some of the hecklers chanting to "bring out Jerry Butler" while Don Cornelius was talking but otherwise it was a great evening.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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