Wednesday, June 29, 2011

History of the Soul Train Music Awards

Walk on By became Warwick's second internation...Image via WikipediaBy Andy McCarthy

Soul Train began in 1971, as the first African American music variety show in the history of American television, with a format including a dance club ambiance playing the day's most popular urban music, complete with dancing men and women throughout the show, dressed to impress, along with hosts and performances from among major figures in Black entertainment.

Though it initially aired in only the seven cities of Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, the show met with a successful start. Within seven months, the show had achieved its goal of airing in syndication in 25 major cities. The show had been the dream of Don Cornelius, the program's founder, producer, and host. His mission had been to establish a vehicle to offer recognition to Black artists who, in the 60's and 70's, did not receive much television air time on other programs that featured music.

The Soul Train Music Awards began in 1987 as a program for honoring each year's greatest achievements in Black music, and to generate more exposure and recognition for the overlooked artists and performers supported by Soul Train's mission. The first year, the award show's hosts included R&B legends Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, and Dionne Warwick, with performances from Run DMC, Whitney Houston, and LL Cool J.

Deriving its name from the show from which it sprang, the awards ceremony broadcast includes two hours of live performances by popular R&B, hip hop, and gospel artists. Winners are determined by a voting committee composed of active professionals within various fields of the music industry, including radio programming, music retail, music management, and notable recording artists (as determined by whether their records have reached approved music charts during the past year).

Since the very first year of the awards show, winners have not received traditional crystal awards, but trophies designed as African ceremonial masks, in representation of the heritage and culture from which Black music has derived.

Janet Jackson has received more Soul Train Music Awards than any other artist in the history of the awards, with eight, and is tied with R. Kelly for the record for most nominations, with nineteen. Categories honor best albums and singles of the year separately within the genres of R&B/Soul, Gospel, Jazz, and Rap, along with Best New Artist and a category called The Michael Jackson Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video.

A category called The Sprite Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Dance Cut was introduced in 2005 and retired in 2007, with its only three winners being for the videos Yeah by Usher, Lose Control by Missy Elliot, and Chicken Noodle Soup by Young B & Webstar. Special awards categories include the Quincy Jones Award for Career Achievement, Heritage Award for Career Achievement, Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year, Stevie Wonder Award for Outstanding Achievements in Song Writing, Artist of the Decade Award for Extraordinary Music Achievements, and the Humanitarian Award.

After the show did not air for two years, in 2007 and 2008, in the aftermath of Don Cornelius' sale of his ownership over the Soul Train company to MadVision Entertainment, the show's return in the year 2009 marked the first time that the awards show took place outside of Los Angeles, held in Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center that year.

The author of this article is 10 year veteran in the crystal awards and recognition gifts industry.

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