The JBs were the only band that Don Cornelius allowed to play live on Soul Train, and they destroyed every time. There was no lip synching with the Godfather.
I used to watch Soul Train late at night on my dad’s 10-inch black and white TV. You needed a wrench to change the channel. It was the late 80s - 87, 88, 89 - hardly a high-water mark for non-hip-hop black music, but it was still the most wonderful thing in the world to me. It was an amazing, self-contained world of music and dance. I still remember the thrill that that cartoon train gave me every time it came on the screen.
As an adult, the thing that I admire most about Don Cornelius (and JB, for that matter) is his commitment to independence. He was a radio DJ, like me, who built a media empire for himself. In an era when black men like him were still expected to go to work for a white owner, he owned his work and profited enormously from it. No one could tell him it was too black or too anything else, because it was his.
Right now, I’m imagining Don Cornelius bringing JB to the stage in heaven. Or at least bringing Fats Gonder on to bring JB on…