Soul Train History Book: Soul Train’s Theme Songs

Soul Train Gang album coverOver Soul Train’s 36 year history, the program has had various theme songs, some of which were original compositions and others which were not. Depending on your age, only one or a few of these theme songs might be familiar to you, while others might recognize all of the theme songs.

Nevertheless, here is a look back at the program’s theme songs during its 36 year run:

“Hot Potato” by King Curtis, 1971-1973

This song was originally recorded in 1962 and was later re-recorded by a group called The Rimshots in 1972 titled as “Soul Train, Parts 1 & 2.” It was King Curtis’ version, however, which would be utilized from the time the show aired nationally on October 2, 1971 all the way up to October 20, 1973.

The bumper music that was heard as the program would go to and from commercial breaks during this time was from Joe Tex’s “Familiar Footsteps.”

“T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia),” 1973-1975

This was perhaps the most popular and familiar Soul Train song during the program’s run, utilized from October 27, 1973 to August 16, 1975 at a time when the show hit its peak in popularity. It was composed by Philadelphia International’s Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and recorded by MFSB with vocals by the Three Degrees. When it was released as a single in February 1974, it went to number one on both the soul and pop charts in April 1974, which was a testament to the program’s popularity with both black and white television viewers.

“Soul Train ’75,” 1975-1976

“Soul Train ’75” was a new theme song produced by Don Cornelius and Dick Griffey for Cornelius’ new record label, Soul Train Records. It was recorded by the Soul Train Gang, which was originally the name used for the program’s dancers but would be used for the new recording group. It would be used as the new theme song from August 23, 1975 to October 9, 1976.

“Soul Train ’76  (Get On Board),” 1976-1978

This disco-styled theme song was also recorded by the studio group the Soul Train Gang and would be used from October 16, 1976 to August 12, 1978.

“Soul Train Theme ’79,” 1978-1980

This mellower theme song was produced by the Hollywood Disco Jazz Band with vocals by the Waters. The theme song was used from August 19, 1978 to February 23, 1980.

“Up On Soul Train” (Version 1), 1980

Produced by Dick Griffey, the first version of this theme song was recorded by the Waters and would be used from March 1, 1980 to September 13, 1980.

“Up On Soul Train” (Version 2), 1980-1983

The second version of this theme song was again produced by Dick Griffey and recorded by The Whispers and was featured on their Imagination album. The smooth R&B gem was utilized as the program’s theme from September 20, 1980 to March 26, 1983.

“Soul Train’s A Comin’, 1983-1987

This funky theme song was recorded by O’Bryan and was utilized from April 2, 1983 to September 12, 1987.

“TSOP ’87,” 1987-1993

A remake of the original “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” composed and produced by George Duke. Duke also remixed this version in 1989. The remakes were utilized from September 19, 1987 to September 1993.

“Soul Train ’93 (Know You Like to Dance),” 1993-1999

The rap group Naughty By Nature recorded this new hip-hop theme song to capitalize on rap and hip-hop music’s dominance. The track featured a saxophone solo by Everette Harp, and would be used as the program’s theme from September 1993 to December 1999.

“TSOP 2000,” 2000-2006

This laid back and mellow variation on “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” featured rap vocals by hip-hop artist Samson and music by Dr. Freeze featuring Everette Harp on a saxophone solo. At times, a portion of “Know You Like to Dance” was still used in the show’s second-half opening segment during this period. It would be the theme song utilized from January 2000 to its final first run episode airing in 2006.

Trivia: Bobby Byrd recorded a single entitled “Soul Train” in 1969, which came out a year before the local version of Soul Train aired in Chicago in August 1970.

The R&B group the Manhattans also recorded a funky dance track entitled “Soul Train,” which is featured on their 1973 album There’s No Me Without You and was apparently recorded to capitalize on the program’s popularity.

When James Brown recorded a funky remake of “Honky Tonk,” the record label billed the song as being recorded by the James Brown Soul Train.

—Stephen McMillian

Journalist, actor, filmmaker, dancer, performer, writer, poet, historian, choreographer. That’s Stephen McMillian.

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