It would make a good movie scene, if it isn't already: two girls, around 8 or 9 years old, plopped on a cozy family room couch watching TV on a Saturday afternoon, lazing after Friday night's slumber party. The best friends have a Saturday TV routine, as most American kids do in 1971, which is getting up early to watch cartoons, then "American Bandstand," and then..."Soul Train." I cannot help but smile when revisiting this in my memory -- my friend Beth and I, little white rural Wisconsin kids, so entranced by the total get-down-and-get-funkiness that was "Soul Train." Keep this in mind: where we lived at this time, there were no black people. AT ALL. This was Whitey White White Land, until you traveled far into  Milwaukee, a very uncommon thing for our families to do. Saturday we watched "Soul Train," and Sunday? I watched "Polka Party" and "The Lawrence Welk Show" at my grandparents' house, which were indeed the perfect polar opposites of "Soul Train."

"Soul Train" was created by its host of many years, the Baddest Cat On The Planet, Don Cornelius, he of the low low DJ voice and the big big Afro, as "the black American Bandstand." He died today at age 75, a suicide. His death prompts me to think about those Saturday afternoons, where I was not only thoroughly entertained but got to learn a little about the world beyond mine. In what was surely the Golden Age of Soul, the 1970s, Soul Train brought us performances by Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Chaka Khan (whose Afro was enormous, and smile so beautiful), The O'Jays, Freda Payne, Bill Withers, WAR, James Brown, The Chi-Lites, The Delfonics, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Isaac Hayes, The Jackson 5, Curtis Mayfield...I could go on and on and on. All those stunning songs from some of the very very best popular musicians we've ever had, yet -- YET! -- just as wonderful were the fashions and the DANCING from the kids who made up the Soul Train studio audience. Oh. My. God. You've just never seen dancing unless you've witnessed the "Soul Train Line." I won't entertain the TINEST bit of argument over this.

"Soul Train Line," The O'Jays

A few years later, my friend Margaret and I would take serious fashion notes during "Soul Train," trying to shoehorn some funky cool into our wardrobes. If I had it still, I would show you a photo of one of my outfits at the time, no doubt influenced by "Soul Train" -- a poofy denim cap, bell-bottomed skin-tight overalls that went from light blue at the top to dark blue at the bottom with metal studs down the legs, and denim platform shoes, also with studs. Oh dear god, what the "Soul Train" folks would have thought to see 13-year-old Farmy McMoo in this, with my wire-rim glasses, long mousy brown hair, pudgy pale skin, and heavy Wisconsin accent! I couldn't buy myself funk with a million dollars to spend. Oh, well.

All these years later when viewing those old clips, it is abundantly clear that "Soul Train" was and remains a joyous expression of culture. It didn't matter at all if a viewer was black or white or yellow or purple. At the core of "Soul Train" there is a celebration of life itself, something that is universally understood and felt. So, thinking back on those Saturdays long past, when two little white girls would line dance in the hallway over and over, playing my 45 of "Theme From Shaft," I thank Don Cornelius for all that he did, for us all. Rest in peace.

Dance us out, Don!

"Soul Train Line," Don Cornelius & Mary Wilson