The Soul Train Music Awards: A Journey Through Time

The Soul Train Music Awards: A Journey Through Time

A Legacy of Celebrating Black Excellence in Music

The iconic “Soul Train Music Awards” first graced our screens on March 23, 1987, over three decades ago. Broadcast in national television syndication, the annual award show pays tribute to the most outstanding black performers in the entertainment and music industry. The creators of the Soul Train program also produce the Soul Train Music Awards, from which the show derives its name. Initially, the award ceremonies took place in February, March, or April, featuring performances from R&B and Soul artists. However, the event has since moved to the last weeks of November, coinciding with the Thanksgiving weekend.

Demystifying the Voting Process

The voting body for the Soul Train Music Awards comprises professionals from various sectors, including music management, retail, radio programming, and recording artists. To be eligible, artists must have songs or albums listed in top charts featured by trade publications in the year preceding the awards. The show has seen a plethora of hosts over the years, such as Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, Will Smith, Patti Labelle, Taraji Henson, Gladys Knight, and Vanessa Williams. The trophy for the Soul Train Music Awards features a ceremonial African Mask, which has been in use since the show’s inception in 1987. In 2009, Tristan Eaton of Thunderdog Studios designed a new trophy, now manufactured by New York-based firm Society Awards.

The 2008 Awards Hiatus

The Soul Train Music Awards faced an unexpected interruption in 2008, with several factors contributing to the show’s cancellation. The ill health of Don Cornelius, the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike (2007-2008), and the termination of operations by its distributor, Tribune Entertainment, after Sam Zell’s acquisition of the Tribune Company, all played a part. Currently, MadVision holds the rights to Soul Train, and the Soul Train Music Awards take place every November. MadVision also possesses the rerun rights to Soul Train.

Venue Hopping Through the Years

The first November Soul Train Music Awards ceremony occurred at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, marking the first time the event was held outside the Los Angeles area. In 2010, the awards took place at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and aired on November 28. Centric hosted the show in Atlanta for the second time in 2011, with the broadcast airing on November 27. On November 25, 2012, the Soul Train Music Awards went live at the Planet Hollywood Resorts in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Unveiling the Mystery of the Trophy

The creator of the original trophy remains unknown. The award features an African mask with a unique design of a seated figure, referred to as the Vanguard, and is made of bronze. Dubbed the “Heritage Award,” the mask symbolizes the African heritage of the recipients and has become the visual trademark of Black Music as represented by Soul Train. The Heritage mask was in use from 1989 to 2009, after which BET, in collaboration with Centric, commissioned Thunderdog to design a new mask based on the program’s mascot – a train.

We hope this journey through the history of the Soul Train Music Awards has been both engaging and informative. Don Cornelius, the founder of the awards, continued to influence the show even after retiring as the host, until his passing in 2012. The Soul Train Music Awards tradition lives on, still taking place during the Thanksgiving period.

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