Soul Train History Book: The Top 12 Live Soul Train Performances

2016 marks the 45th anniversary of when Soul Train aired nationally. To commemorate this milestone, every month this year’s Soul Train History Book will take a look back at the top 12 live performances ever presented on Soul Train.

#10 Stevie Wonder

Legendary music icon and humanitarian Stevie Wonder made three appearances on Soul Train. His first appearance was on the November 1972, taping when he performed his big hits “Signed, Sealed Delivered,” “Superstition,” and an impromptu tribute song to Soul Train. For his final Soul Train appearance in 1995, he mainly promoted his Conversation Peace album and also wowed the audience with a live medley.

It was during his second appearance on Soul Train in August 1991 when the program paid a special tribute to the Wonder Man. This episode was primarily a promotion for his movie soundtrack to the Spike Lee film Jungle Fever, as well as to premiere the new video for his song “Fun Day.”

jungle fever_stevie wonderWonder performed track on this tribute live, and his vocals were bursting with high-spirited energy. However, the major highlight of the tribute was when he performed a medley of his hits with the Soul Train Dancers and host Don Cornelius surrounding him.

The Soul Train Dancers sang in jubilant unison with Wonder on his hits. The fact that the dancers knew every word to the classics he performed was a true testament to how legendary Wonder’s music is.

After the medley, Wonder delivered a short speech paying tribute to Soul Train then performed his current hit, the lovely ballad “These Three Words.”

Earlier on in the tribute, Wonder and Cornelius reminisced for over 10 minutes as Cornelius recalled when Wonder performed “13 Month Old Baby” the first time he appeared on Soul Train in 1972. Wonder jokingly corrected Cornelius stating, “It’s called ‘Superstition,’Don!”

The tribute to Stevie Wonder featured tracks from the Jungle Fever soundtrack, which remained at #1 on the R&B album chart for two weeks in August 1991, as well as some of Wonder’s earlier hits. “Dark & Lovely,” from his 1987 album Characters, played during the Soul Train line.

Wonder enjoyed a great closeness with Cornelius and Soul Train, and once stated that Soul Train had always been a great way to determine whether a song was going to be a hit or not. Indeed, two weeks after his Soul Train performance of “Superstition” aired in December 1972, the single went to #1 on the soul singles chart.

Watch this clip of a true wonder of a genius at work in a great live performance.

—Stephen McMillian

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

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