BET announces 2021 Soul Train Awards to take place at the Apollo Theater

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Two legendary entertainment entities are coming together for the first time. BET announced today that the 2021 Soul Train Music Awards will take place at the world-famous Apollo Theater.

Celebrating 50 years of the iconic Soul Train show hosted by Don Cornelius that became ground-breaking for its weekly celebration of Black culture and for showcasing Black artists, the show will be held this year in the historic venue.

BET Soul Train Awards thegrio.com
(Credit: BET)

Soul Train was started by Cornelius, a former journalist, TV host, and disc jockey in Chicago. Cornelius broadcast his first show on a Chicago television station in 1970 with $400 of his own money and moved it to Los Angeles a year later. When the show ended in 2006, it had become the longest-running first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history.

During that run, Soul Train became a staple of Black culture for everything from its dancers and famous dance line for the breadth of its guests that encompassed almost every Black musician of the time and even some white ones who wanted exposure to a Black audience. Cornelius’ episode closing line, ‘Love peace and soul,’ became synonymous with the show, entering the entertainment lexicon and pop culture history.

Questlove, who has a collection of more than 600 Soul Train episodes and wrote a book on Soul Train published in 2013, recently told the New York Times magazine that the show functioned as a “sibling, a parent, a baby sitter, a friend, a textbook, a newscast, a business school and a church,” in his life as it was one of two shows he was allowed to watch as a child.

Anyone who came up in that era will likely say the same, as it was a Saturday morning staple in Black America throughout its run.

The Apollo Theater has been a mainstay in Harlem for over 85 years, showcasing music legends like Aretha Franklin and James Brown and breaking new acts through its Showtime at the Apollo competition series. Jazmine Sullivan and D’Angelo are just two acts that made their early appearances on the Apollo stage.

BET’s production will be one of the first in-person events at the Apollo since the pandemic and even the executives producing the show are excited about the award show being taped there.

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A nighttime view of the Apollo Theater on April 9, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

“Don Cornelius’ brilliant vision created a revolutionary show that became a cornerstone in American culture. Fifty years later, the Soul Train Awards continues to amplify his powerful message of Love, Peace & Soul to a global audience,” Connie Orlando, BET’s EVP of Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy, said in a release. “We are honored to be a part of the Soul Train legacy and partner with the national treasure that is the Apollo to celebrate Black excellence and culture with one unforgettable night of can’t miss moments.”

The Apollo has set a high bar hosting events in recent years like the theatrical production of Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me when he was named the first Master Artist-in-Residence in 2019. The famed theater was also the subject of a 2019 Emmy-winning documentary. The Soul Train Music Awards is just the latest event to add to its storied legacy.

“The Apollo has long been a center of Black cultural and creative innovation for Harlem, the city of New York, and the world. It has provided a platform for Black artists at all stages of their careers, and a gathering place for audiences to express themselves freely,” said Apollo Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes in a release.

“The Apollo is thrilled to partner with BET to host the Soul Train Awards, bringing together three iconic brands that represent Black culture and excellence under one roof. This is an occasion to celebrate, and we look forward to the incredible performances that will light up our stage during the Soul Train Awards.”

The 2021 Soul Train Music Awards will air on BET and BET Her on Sunday, Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. Jessie Collins will be executive producer along with Jesse Collins Entertainment’s Jeannae Rouzan–Clay. BET’s Jamal Noisette will co-produce for BET along with Orlando, who will oversee the show.  

So far, no host, nominees, or performers have been announced.

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