VSL:WEB // See the original ‘Soul Train’

Soul!, which ran on New York City’s PBS affiliate, WNET, from 1968 to 1973, featured live performances by Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, and other stars of what used to be called the chitlin’ circuit. To celebrate Black History Month, WNET’s making six full episodes available online.

The show’s set had the look and feel of a nightclub — there was almost no distance between performers and audience — and the performances tended to run long: Check out Earth, Wind & Fire, who follow up a funked-up cover of James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” with a five-minute jam and two six-minute numbers. Or Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s furious, 16-minute interpretation of “The Old Rugged Cross” (its culmination will remind you of a Who concert). Most of the performers sat for interview segments — Nick Ashford recalled his first love, and Tito Puente talked about the roots of his music — and our sources at the station tell us they’ll be posting 40 more episodes in the weeks to come. To which we say: Righteous.

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