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BET Celebrated Soul Train‘s 50th Anniversary at Apollo Theater

50th Annual BET Soul Train Awards

Written By: LaKisa Renee

BET celebrated Soul Train‘s 50th anniversary at this year’s Soul Train Music Awards held at the historic Apollo theater. This particular show was monumental because it was the first time in history that the award show has been held in New York City and at the Apollo Theater. Soul Train made its debut 50 years ago on Saturday mornings in households all over the nation. Created by Director, Producer & Host Don Cornelius, the award-winning music-dance television became a cultural phenomenon. It featured performances from R&B, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Dance, Hip-Hop, Disco and Gospel artists. It also highlighted many top dancers from around the country. Although the official broadcast ended in 2006, the Soul Train’s legendary legacy is still going strong today.

The celebrities brought the heat to Harlem and the red carpet in amazing looks for the special, commemorative 2021 Soul Train Awards. The show was hosted by best friends and legendary Actresses/Singers Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell. This was their fourth time host the event and the ladies did not disappoint. They opened the awards with a show-stopping dance number that paid tribute to Don Cornelius and the Soul Train legacy. It also featured a surprise performance from El Degarge singing the Debarge hit song “Rhythm of the night,” which brought the audience to its feet. The ladies entertained all night from the opening monologue to making jokes about each other. They also imitated Steve Harvey and Kiki Shepard as a tribute to the ‘Showtime at the Apollo’ tv show. Bill de Blasio took the stage joined by his wife Chirlane McCray to celebrate Soul Train and make November 28th, 2021 “Soul Train Day” in NYC.

Maxwell and Ashanti were the guests of honor, Maxwell being presented with the Legend Award by Jazmine Sullivan and Ashanti with the Lady of Soul Award by Normani. The two also hit the stage for some wonderful performances. Ashanti took us down memory lane after her heart warming speech and performed a few of her classic hits that included guest appearances by Ja Rule and Fat Joe. Maxwell gave an emotional speech that brought him to tears, remembering his tough past in NYC and now being celebrated as a legend. He gave a memorable performance, full of excitement and dancing. Other performers during the night included Fred Hammond, Lucky Daye, Ari Lennox, Leon Bridges, Bruno Mars & Anderson Paak as Silk Sonic, the current #1 R&B Artist Summer Walker and Amplified Artists Elhae & Marzz. Ari Lennox delivered a fabulous performance of her single “Pressure” along with her background 2 dancers. They combined great energy, with a classic look and choreography to match. Summer Walker, who just broke numerous records with her #1 sophomore debut “Still Over It”, also performed and sang a duet with Ari Lennix for their song “Unloyal.” Silk Sonic also had a very memorable performance of their hit songs as their set with a remake of the original legendary Soul Train TV show set, dancers included.

The Iconic R&B soul cypher made its return and paid homage to Singer Aaliyah and the anniversary of her album release. DJ D-Nice of Club Quarantine played “Rock the Boat '' on the 1s & 2s as R&B Artists Musiq Soulchild, Elle Varner, Jac Ross, Kotyn Hawthorne and Tone Stith freestylin vocals over the beat. Presenters and appearances included 21 Savage, Mack Wilds, Wendy Raquel Robinson & Hosea Chanchez from “The Game”, the casts of BET shows, “Games People Play,” and “Sacrifice,” and Tyler Perry hit show “Sistas.”

Some of the featured award categories were Best R&B/Soul Female Artist, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, The Ashford and Simpson Songwriter’s Award, Best Collaboration, Video of the Year and Best R&B/Soul Male Artist. Award winners of the night included Normani, Yung Bleu and Jazmine Sullivan who was the crowd’s favorite to win. Often, fans feel as if Jasmine does not get the recognition and credit she deserves. It was great to see her finally win and be highlighted. Jazmine gave a very moving acceptance speech about her struggles in the industry and what it has taken to get to this place in her life.

"DJ Cassidy's Pass The Mic: BET Soul Train Edition" premiered immediately following the 2021 “Soul Train Awards.” This edition marked the 1st anniversary of DJ Cassidy’s Pass The Mic on BET and welcomed the appearance of the 190th iconic artist on the series. DJ Cassidy honored 50 years of Soul Train by passing the mic to nearly twenty legendary R&B and Hip Hop icons, eleven of whom appeared on Soul Train during the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond, including Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel, Jeffrey Osborne, Gloria Gaynor, Charlie Wilson & Stephanie Mills.

BET also held the first-ever “Soul Train Awards Weekend,” a 3-day multiplatform experience that celebrated the best in commerce, music, and entertainment. The weekend kicked off with the “Leading With Soul” Luncheon honoring executives known for leadership. The luncheon honored Esi Egleston Bracey of Unilever North America with the ‘Corporate Champion Award, BET President of Media Sales Louis Carr, a veteran of BET and leader in sales for global brands with the ‘Legacy Award. It also honored Cheryl McKissack Daniel & Deryl McKissack of McKissack & McKissack with the ‘Black Business Icon Award’ for their professional design and construction firm and Jonelle Procope, President and Chief Executive. The weekend ended with a Guiness World Record Breaking Soul Train Line that was held at the Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. The line was attended by over 500 people and featured celebrity guests such as Angela Simmons. The event also included the Soul Train scramble board and van filled with games and prizes. The Soul Train 50th Anniversary Weekend was historical all the way across the board and left its legendary mark on Harlem, NY.

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Photos by Getty Images


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