The Soul Train Awards Celebrates 50 Years of Black Music and Culture at the Legendary Apollo Theater

The Soul Train Awards Celebrates 50 Years of Black Music and Culture at the Legendary Apollo Theater

It’s been 50 years since the premiere of Soul Train, but the legacy of the iconic music variety show is still very much alive.

Launched in 1971 by Donald “Don” Cornelius, Soul Train was a groundbreaking weekly broadcast that revolutionized television by putting a national spotlight on Black music, style, and dance trends. After becoming a local hit in Chicago, Cornelius moved Soul Train to Los Angeles where it became a nationally syndicated sensation that ran up until 2006. The show was best known for showcasing performances from African American singers and young local dancers. It later ballooned into a cultural phenomenon that spawned Soul Train Records in 1975, The Soul Train Music Awards, and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards.

Tichina Arnold Tisha Campbell
Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell perform onstage at The “2021 Soul Train Awards” Presented By BET at World Famous Apollo on November 20, 2021, in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)

In celebration of Soul Train’s impact on American music, dance, and fashion, the annual “Soul Train Awards” celebrates RnB artists and soul singers who have carried the legacy into the 21st century. Presented by BET, this year’s award show was taped on November 20 at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY. The show was hosted by actresses Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold from the hit 90’s sitcom Martin and featured appearances by some of the brightest stars in Black culture and entertainment.

“So much music came to us through the platform of Soul Train,” said singer-songwriter El DeBarge in a red carpet interview. “Everybody looked forward to it on Saturdays. It made the weekend for us, and we heard a lot of music that we never ever would have been exposed to.”

Actor and singer Tristan “Mack” Wilds said it was an honor to commemorate the 50th year anniversary of the show at the world-famous Apollo Theater.

“It’s amazing just thinking about the legacy that Soul Train has and thinking about where we are right now. This is the Apollo Theater,” he told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “It’s the two Black legends coming together to celebrate 50 years of excellence, 50 years of our stories being told, [and] of us being able to sing the way we want to sing and not having to worry about anybody saying anything about us. It’s legendary.”

Apollo Theater Maxwell
Ashanti attends The “2021 Soul Train Awards” Presented By BET at The Apollo Theater on November 20, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

This year, H.E.R. leads the 2021 “Soul Train Awards” nominations with eight nods, while Jazmine Sullivan and Chris Brown garnered the second most nods with six nominations each. Wiz Kid and TEMS have five nods each, followed by Blxst with four nods. Silk Sonic, Doja Cat, and Yung Bleu each have three nods.

The award show will also feature performances by Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter and producer Maxwell, who was presented with the Soul Train Legend Award, and multi-platinum singer-songwriter Ashanti, who received the Lady of Soul award. Other performers include R&B super duo Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak of Silk Sonic, songstress Ari Lennox, soul singer Leon Bridges, R&B singer Lucky Daye, singer-songwriter Summer Walker, and gospel artist Fred Hammond.

The 2021 Soul Train Awards airs Sunday, November 28 at 8/7c, on BET. The complete list of nominees for the 2021 “Soul Train Awards” is available here.