Monday, March 1, 2010

The Hippest Trip in America


Today's Wonder of the World is Soul Train!
So why is a forty something white woman like me blogging about a pop music dance show with an African American focus?
Because I'm still in love with a documentary I watched a few weeks ago from VH1, "Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America."
And because I wasn't always forty something.

I used to be seven.

Around the same time that I saw the documentary, I also found this photo of my second grade class. I don't know about you, but second grade was about the time I started noticing that people came in different colors. It may just be the age that kids start thinking about stuff like that, about their similarities and differences from other people, or maybe it was the measles shot.
(A very short story first to explain, and then we'll get back to Soul Train, promise.)

If you were in first or second grade in 1972, you had to line up with the rest of your class in the cafeteria and get immunized for measles.
This freaked me out.
After Mrs. Elkins walked us back to our classroom, I threw up all over myself.
Mrs. Elkins rushed me into the bathroom and told me to take off my shirt, that she'd find me something to wear for the rest of the day. The navy cardigan she brought me had some holes in it, but not in strategic places, so I put it on and went back to my desk. It was then I noticed that Linda, the little black girl whose desk was next to mine, looked different than she had a moment before. I was wearing Linda's sweater. Mrs. Elkins had asked, and she had lent it to me.

It sounds silly now, but I found this very interesting. Linda's skin was brown. I was wearing her clothes. Her sweater felt the same as my sweaters did. It smelled a little different. A nice smell, like her hair. At seven years old, African American hair fascinated me. The Wimberleys next door were African American. Mr. Wimberley had a pharmacy downtown and Mrs. Wimberley was on the school board. Peele was my friend but he was a boy, so I hadn't paid much attention to him. Though I did try to find reasons to accidentally touch his hair. Sometimes I'd just ask him and he'd roll his eyes and tell me to quit.

I was curious. African Americans were in my class at school and in my neighborhood. But not in my church. We were the same, but we were different.
But we were the same.

In 1972, black Americans weren't on TV, except on the news. And on Soul Train.
It came on after the Saturday cartoons and American Bandstand, and I'd watch a little bit of it, sometimes the whole thing.
The dancing was amazing.

And I loved Don Cornelius' smooth voice.

The live music was the best--The Jackson Five, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Marvin Gaye.


But my favorite part was the Soul Train Line,
in which couples get to dance by themselves as everyone else enjoys the music from the sidelines.

Nobody danced like that on American Bandstand. So cool.
And a few of those dancers became famous on their own.

Remember What's Happening? It's Rerun!

So did you watch Soul Train? If you did, I bet you'd really love the documentary. Check out VH1's website for future broadcasts. You can find more about the documentary here.

Do you remember your early impressions and feelings about race? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wishing you love, peace, and soul!
Love, Becky
PS. Check out this line dance. If you watch carefully, you'll see Rerun in slow mo!
PS. 2. In case you're wondering, that's Linda and me in the class photo, middle row, first two on the left.

10 comments:

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

They just outdid American Bandstand with that show, didn't they? Cooler music, cooler clothes, cooler moves... I can totally see how you'd be fascinated living so close to people looking so different at that age. I think I'd have been the same way had I lived in similar circumstances.

ParisBreakfasts said...

OMG!
R U kidding
I LUV Soul Train but I have not seen this docu.. :(
Triste vraiment..there must be a way. Yea Gods the early Michael Jackson on ST are incredible. Where is our Soul Train today..?
At least we have YouTube to help out in these times of music famine.

ParisBreakfasts said...

That is one fabulous video!!!
Thank you Becky
Gee should I get the ST DVDs...
You got me started

Susan said...

We watched this documentary last week and I loved it. I never saw the show as a teen, as we only got two channels in our very small town of 1200 people. So I was surprised when I saw Rerun and Rosie Perez as dancers, and it was not easy to just sit on the couch and watch the show. I got up and danced several times.

lotusgirl said...

Oh, Honey. It was Soul Train every Saturday. My brothers would mimic all the moves and then do them at the dances we went to.

Race relations was a big deal in my hometown. My kindergarten year was the first of full integration in Camden. There were a lot of hard feelings. (Not me. I didn't get it. We had just come back from a couple years in Germany and the military pre-schools were fully integrated. I had friends there of all colors.) But it was really stressful at the schools. My mom ended up taking me out and teaching me at home. When I started first grade things were much better. I've blogged about some of this before.

Jojo said...

Somehow I imagined you dancing the day away after you wrote this post!

May @ Anne and May said...

That video was the best thing I've seen in weeks!

I loved Soul Train as a kid too. And What's Happenin' And who could forget Showtime at the Apollo?

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I love your comments, friends.
You should check out ParisBreakfasts' link if you get a chance. You'll love it.

ParisBreakfasts said...

I happily wasted an hour listening to bonus bits from that doc..
Jeeze..maybe I should get cable by March 11
Yr costing me girl!!

Betty C. said...

I have a very vague memory of Soul Train, but definitely remember seeing the Jackson Five many times on TV. A very nice post.