Dancers gathered to form the world’s longest Soul Train to honor the late musician Don Cornelius.
People wearing afro wigs and bell-bottoms boogied in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum, Feb. 13 to groove together without respects to race, age or gender in a celebration of life. Many picked their pseudo ‘fros out without inhibition.
“We are here taking a stand for peace, love and soul,” Philadelphia resident India White said.
White was one of the participants who gathered on the museum steps in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest soul train line. According to organizer Sheila Simmons, 327 dancers were confirmed and that count will be sent to Guinness. The current record is set at 211.
The event was organized to honor the late creator of the television show “Soul Train,” Don Cornelius, who passed away Feb. 1.
Dancers decked out in ‘70s style formed the soul train – something like a human train in motion – in which participants paired up in parallel lines and took turns dancing down between the rows.
In order for the train to qualify for the “Guinness Book of World Records,” event organizer Shelia Simons outlined the rules, including that no one could join the line after 4:30 p.m., and participants had to go down the line and back up again.
Mayor Michael Nutter started off the line.
“I couldn’t find my ‘fro this morning and I gave my pick to [Roots drummer] Questlove,” Nutter said. “We come here today to celebrate the life of Cornelius. This is a great moment for many Americans to honor the work of this man.”
The train eventually disassembled as the sun began to set and the event turned into a massive disco party.
Cornelius delivered the meaning of funk, soul and disco music to Saturday afternoon living rooms across America, preparing the world for the televised revolution of hip-hop. He was one of the most important movers and shakers of the 1970s, and a key agent to bringing black pop culture to television.
“Soul Train” began as a Chicago-based television show in 1970 and ran for 20 years. Cornelius, the host and executive producer of “Soul Train,” became the driving force behind the nationally syndicated show.
“Soul Train” was the first dance show that catered to the musical interest of African-American teenagers, and brought African-American music to the forefront of the entertainment industry.
The viewers were interested in seeing, not only the latest and greatest of the recording artist, but the dancers. The show provided a medium for showcasing the newest dance moves and outfits.
Dancers were essential to the popularity and durability of the show. The show served as a catalyst in the eventual widespread hip-hop dance phenomenon and revolutionized the way America gets down.
“I used to be on ‘Dance Party USA’ [and] ‘Big Soul’ and it just means a lot to me to be a part of this,” participant Liz Jacobs said.
Priscilla Ward can be reached at email@example.com.