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Soul Train storms through Atlanta again

The 2011 Soul Train Awards chugged into the Fox Theatre Thursday night, and while it wasn’t a marathon production like last year’s seven-hour ordeal (or the nearly 10 hour one in Los Angeles before that), there was plenty of star power and nostalgia crammed into what will air as a two-hour show.

There were indeed awards presented during the three-and-a-half-hour taping, but out of courtesy to those who prefer to be surprised by such things, I’m not mentioning the winners here. Surely they’re floating around online if you’re that desperate to know who picked up the train trophy for Best New Artist.

The awards will premiere at 9 p.m. Nov. 27 on BET and Centric.

Set the TiVo from now because here are the top five “don’t miss” moments. But first, kudos to host Cedric the Entertainer, who burst onto the stage doing the body rock and the Dougie to Herbie Hancock’s “Rocket” and Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” and was seamless and amusing all night.

“It’s good to be in the South. They sweet tea everything around here. I had a sweet tea martini last night,” he joked. He later took a gentle swipe at Herman Cain’s now-infamous Libya pause and later in the show headed to the balcony for a change of scenery.

But back to that top five…

1. Hearing Morris Day bleat the opening of “Jungle Love” was cool enough. But watching him and the crew formerly known as The Time break into those sliding dance moves and charge through a medley that included “Cool” and “The Bird” was an early reminder of how fun and funky R&B can be when done right.

Now known as The Original 7ven, the group of Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson, Jerome Benton, Jellybean Johnson and Monte Moir were far more interesting to watch than the troupe of energetic female dancers in tiny sequined shorts bopping around the stage.

On the red carpet before the show, Jam said the band hopes to tour next year and the difference between The Time’s heyday and now is, “We’re older and wiser.”

2. Gladys Knight, one of two recipients of the 2011 Legend Award, first received a tribute of video clips featuring Elton John, Smokey Robinson and Marie Osmond. But the live accolades make the memories.

A new version of the Pips – among them Freddie Jackson and Kenny Lattimore – backed a parade of singers including Marsha Ambrosius nailing “If I Were Your Woman,” Mary Mary storming through “Midnight Train to Georgia,” their booming gospel voices a perfect match to the song, and an extremely thin Natalie Cole crooning “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”

Cole introduced Knight as well, noting that, “She makes the best chicken and waffles in the South!”

The incandescent Knight, meanwhile, delivered a meaningful speech touching on race, Dr. Martin Luther King, James Brown and her gratitude to Soul Train king Don Cornelius.

“I have received awards over the years…but this one here is closest to my heart because it comes from my people. Only you know what roads we have to travel to get anywhere,” she said.

Knight, beaming her beautiful smile, summoned BeBe Winans on stage to duet with him on a soaring new song.

3. The recent death of Heavy D obviously meant a last-minute tribute for the awards show, and the show producers deserve credit for pulling off something simple and meaningful.

After a clip of Heavy D and the Boyz winning their 1990 Soul Train Award for Best Rap Album played, a cluster of red lights scanned the crowd and Naughty By Nature and Kurtis Blow sprung on stage to perform some of the group’s songs.

Before the tribute began, the audience was told during a set change break to find the small glow sticks taped under each seat. Those orange glow sticks were cracked for use and waved in unison as Blow led the crowd in a chant of “Nothing but love for you, Heavy” for several minutes, the theater alight in a spirited radiance.

The memorial ended with one of the rappers quoting Heavy D: “Be inspired.”

4. Another commemoration came for super-songwriter Nick Ashford, who died in August.

His lovely wife, Valerie Simpson, appeared at the top of a staircase and was escorted down by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

“My honey would have loved this tonight,” Simpson said in an unscripted moment that prompted some audible sighs of sadness. She continued with an inspirational speech about the power of songwriting, noting, “Your God-given talents are inspiring others.”

But the purpose of Simpson’s appearance was to announce that Soul Train has established a songwriting award in Ashford’s name. The first winner was awarded during the ceremony.

5. The other recipient of the Legend Award was Earth, Wind & Fire, who received a personal, heartfelt introduction by Malcom-Jamal Warner.

The actor and sometimes-musician shared the story that the first two albums he “borrowed” from his mother were Graham Central Station and Earth, Wind & Fire.

“’Shining Star’ burned such a groove in my psyche that I believed I could be whatever I wanted to be,” Warner said.

A series of musical tributes followed, including a searing rendition of “Reasons” performed by Robin Thicke, Joe and Eric Benet, who impressively handled Philip Bailey’s glass-shattering vocal escalations.

Atlanta’s Cee-Lo Green, who earlier performed “Fool for You” with Melanie Fiona on a snow-themed set, returned for an invigorating “Shining Star.”

The EWF trio of Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson gave a shout-out to Maurice White, the “one who started all this thing,” before engaging the crowd – and many of the performers from throughout the show – to share the spice of life with a sing-along of “Let’s Groove.”

5 ½.  We can’t forget Wolf Blitzer, who, after last year’s hoot-worthy appearance with Doug E. Fresh, came back for a second round of ribbing with the master beat-boxer.

In a skit featuring the Soul Train scramble board, Blitzer did a few Dougie moves – which he learned last year – and then showed Fresh his newly acquired “beat box” skills.

Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene blog

Follow me on Twitter: @ajclifestyle

52 comments Add your comment

teresa

November 18th, 2011
5:54 am

itsallgoodnroanoke

November 18th, 2011
6:48 am

Be Inspired! It’s all good now. Mr. Heavy D.

J

November 18th, 2011
6:51 am

I went this taping.. All I can say is everyone is in for a real treat when it airs. The Time was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!! EWF were magnifying! There’s also a sweet performance by Natalie Cole

Cptn. HOOK

November 18th, 2011
7:18 am

I can’t wait to see the show.

Moderate

November 18th, 2011
7:30 am

As a (late) middle-aged white guy, please allow me to complement this display of the best of the African-American music scene. With all of the unfortunately legitimate coverage here in Atlanta of thugs and “gangstas” , it’s good to anticipate watching this array of professionals who both reflect their culture but cross the entertainment barriers.

Electric

November 18th, 2011
7:51 am

Loving the positivity! Can’t wait to see the show.

zone 6

November 18th, 2011
7:54 am

Hey moderate white guy. the white controled media does wat they can to put us in a bad light. Its only Gangsta and thug if u dont like it and the white media jumps on it every chance they get. you sir don’t know wat we’ve been thru. Gladys Knight got it rite when she said that this award meant the most to her because it came from “her” people and only “our” people know the struggles we’ve been thru. Go post on an article about justin beeber

y Why don’t u go post on a justin beaber article and don’t come on this site slamming gangsta music. I

Kay

November 18th, 2011
8:05 am

Amen Moderate

Typical

November 18th, 2011
8:11 am

First way to screw up my commute by shutting down a major road in downtown atlanta. and secondly, zone…our ancestors and great grandparents suffered not this day and age group. stop using it as a crutch, it makes the rest of us look bad. Can’t wait to see the show.

Alan

November 18th, 2011
8:28 am

How many arrests/shootings were there? When is the all white awards show?

Zone 4

November 18th, 2011
8:31 am

Zone 6, Whether you agree with Moderate or not he has the right to express his opinions. He didn’t slam “Gangsta” music. We all know negativity sells and get ratings so we are not going to hear about the good certain “rappers” are doing. Yes we hear the negative because these “Gangsta Rappers” are doing dumb things. The persona they’re portraying is destroying some of our black youths as well as other ethic groups. I’m a father of 2 who grew up in the “hood” with “Down By Law” and “I refuse” and I’m going to tell you my kids are down by my law because I refuse to let them fall by the waist side by listenting to this garbage and wearing there pants down to their thighs. The reason white America see’s it is because ignorant people are doing it. Why does he have to go post on a Justin Bieber’s article? Why don’t you go post on an article where a black man kills another black man or get busted for selling drugs and say he was just keeping it real. C’mon son.

P.S. Your spelling also tell us a lot about you too my friend. Oh yeah, I’m also a rapper myself that you’ve heard of. Have a great day.

Shine ON

November 18th, 2011
8:33 am

@Typical: You really should learn to punctuate your sentences. I read your “remark” a few times before I got what you were trying to say. Furthermore, why are you planning to watch the show? Perhaps you should sit at home, alone, and remain bitter.

Really

November 18th, 2011
8:39 am

Alan, FYI – Robin Thicke & Wolf Blitzer are both “white”…please don’t be an idiot.

Big C

November 18th, 2011
8:46 am

Amen, Zone 4! I’m glad you took care of that, because I don’t know if I could have been so nice. I’m so sick of the ajc.com blogs, and the people on their that makes a racial issue about everything. I too, grew up in the hood, in the streets of Baltimore, but was raised to know right from wrong. I definitely teach my 5 kids the same morals, and refuse to let them fall into the ignorance of today’s youth.

gm

November 18th, 2011
8:48 am

Our young rappers today droped the ball, the torch of great music, class and pride was handled to them to take music to new levels of creativity, but instead they chose the low class thug mentality, rick ross, lil waynes of the world have set back a whole culture of African American history from the drums beating in Africa to Jazz and blues.
No body is ever going to honor these low class want to be thugs 10 to 20 years from now, they are going to be looked at as a shamful part of African American history no matter how much money they have made.

CWILLI

November 18th, 2011
9:08 am

Hey Zone 6 have you ever heard of the Good, the bad and the ugly well you add a new word to the title ignorant!!

Jamal

November 18th, 2011
9:08 am

Headline should read: “Soul Train awards in Atlanta, nobody shot”

levelhead

November 18th, 2011
9:14 am

Big C
Charm City native what up! Listen to 91.9 WCLK Atlanta for the real NuSoul Bmore flavor. If half of these posters just listen to this positive music that (C)rap muzak will fall by the waist side.

Smokey's Mom

November 18th, 2011
9:19 am

Moderate, thank you so much for your fair and unbiased view. While it is true that the media only shed’s light on a segment of negative culture, it’s good to know there are fair people of other races with enough since to separate culture from race.

Zone 6, it’s because of narrow minded people like you that we struggle with unity of all people. Moderate has a right to his/her opinion and can post wherever they like. I for one welcome positive comments – unless the ignorance from ‘Jamal’ – which I pray everyone ignores.

I can hardly wait to see the show – wish I had an opportunity to view with someone like ‘Moderate’.

Love, Peace & Soul!

dave

November 18th, 2011
9:22 am

What? no Red Carpet

Fan

November 18th, 2011
9:25 am

Excellent write up. I can’t wait to see the show.

Fan

November 18th, 2011
9:42 am

There was a red carpet!

dave

November 18th, 2011
9:52 am

Sorry Fan,i should have said ” no red carpet pictures”

Southside Girl

November 18th, 2011
9:53 am

Zone 6, GET A LIFE! And this is coming from a sista!

Moderate; I’d love to hang out with you, have a martini and discuss world events!

CubDog

November 18th, 2011
9:54 am

I wanna thank Melissa Ruggieri for a wonderfully, soulful account of the awards show. I would also like to thank Moderate for a very heartfelt and inspiring response to the article. I especially want to thank Zone4 for checking Zone6 as well as BigC & Smokey’s Mom for having Zone4’s back. My world feels a little bit warmer and brighter having experienced some true class…”Be inspired.” I am inspired! Thanks.

Smokey's Mom

November 18th, 2011
10:03 am

For those of us with open hearts and minds, I say let’s get together and watch this show! We could meet at a location near the Fox to enjoy the awesome entertainment and the company of like minded individuals. May be a chance to meet some new friends…

Any thoughts?

Big C

November 18th, 2011
10:04 am

@levelhead. Thanks for the heads up! Whatup, fam?!

Big C

November 18th, 2011
10:07 am

Sounds good Smokey’s Mom. CubDog, we got you! :-)

levelhead

November 18th, 2011
10:24 am

@ Big C– Ravens fans meet up at the Hudson’s Midtown for the games! Also were at appplebees at stonecrest.

I’m down for a watch soul train watch party!

Big C

November 18th, 2011
10:45 am

Can do the Hudson’s Midtown. Might see you there.

Fan

November 18th, 2011
10:58 am

@Smokey’s Mom ~ I would love to watch with you. I’m a woman.

Fan

November 18th, 2011
11:02 am

I haven’t been to midtown in a long time. I don’t know any of the spots over there anymore.

Fan

November 18th, 2011
11:16 am

If that came across weirdly, I am a straight woman.

CubDog

November 18th, 2011
11:27 am

Fan, that was funny…like hilarious…I am a man….a straight man…lol

Fan

November 18th, 2011
11:40 am

@CubDog – I laughed at it myself.

Smokey's Mom

November 18th, 2011
12:31 pm

Fan – it’s all good – I’m a straight women too. I’m alway’s open to meeting new friends!

How should we do this?

Fan

November 18th, 2011
12:39 pm

We can set up a meet and greet. If you want it open to the blog, post it here. If you have people you want to invite do an evite. Wait, so sorry, I do this with groups so I’m not sure if you have anyone’s email address.

If anyone wants to come and post their email address, go for it. If not, you can take a chance and having anyone meet up. Some will lurk at the spot and some won’t…it’s your call.

Fan

November 18th, 2011
12:43 pm

Again, wrong choice of words. It’s not a meet and greet. It’s a Viewing Party….

Melissa Ruggieri

November 18th, 2011
12:56 pm

CubDog: Thanks for the compliment. There’s a lot worth watching when the show airs a week from Sunday.

Cheers,
Melissa

Smokey's Mom

November 18th, 2011
1:00 pm

Melissa, any suggestions for the set up of a Viewing Party? Seems like we have some great people here who would mesh really well. Help us out a bit…thanks in advance.

Fan

November 18th, 2011
1:23 pm

Melissa, why not set up a place for your bloggers to meet and then do a write up on the Viewing Party….nevermind. Guess that would be a bit too much.

SoulTrainFan

November 18th, 2011
1:41 pm

Melissa, I agree with your blogger’s I think a viewing party would be great place to meet some wounderful people. The award show seem to have a lot of great music from my era, I am in the over 45 year old club. I would love to get together and enjoy a viewing party on the 27th. Perhaps someone could suggest a great venue where it could be viewed without other interruptions, (for example: 10 other T.V’s with sporting events on them).

Alan

November 18th, 2011
1:57 pm

Wow what losers!

Fan

November 18th, 2011
2:22 pm

Shet it up, Alan! If you don’t want to join, leave the site…it’s that simple!

Smokey's Mom

November 18th, 2011
2:47 pm

Alan – God bless your ignorant heart…

ralph

November 18th, 2011
3:35 pm

I, I’ve been watching you I think, I wanna know ya Said I, I’m a little dangerous Girl, I’d love to show ya
My jungle love, yeah I think, I wanna know ya Jungle love Girl, I’d love to show ya

Classic tune from Morris,

Fan

November 18th, 2011
4:03 pm

Glad you put that it was Morris, because I may have been lost without having the medley in my head…

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4xtra

November 18th, 2011
9:16 pm

Moderate..
as a black male myself I agree with you on what you said…
I like hip hop but always remember
HIP HOP IS ENTERTAINMENT …NOT A LIFESTYLE
Every brotha in ATL does NOT wear baggy pants and act ignorant in public.
This show was a class act