Many of us spent our Saturdays watching American Bandstand and Soul Train. Don Cornelious's booming baritone voice, fly style, and love of soul music made everyone who watched Soul Train want to be Black...for an hour. Rest in Peace...and SOOUUULLLL, Don.
On February 2, 1975, an Italian man from Canada became the first white solo artist to perform on Soul Train. His name was Gino Vannelli. He had a righteous curly mullet fro, and a voice that made Black people all over the world say, "Damn, I thought old dude was BLACK!" His power ballad, " I Just Wanna Stop," didn't come out until 1978, and it is probably the song that most of you will remember.
Gino was not the first white person to have his music played on Soul Train, that distinction belongs to Dennis Coffey, a guitar legend and member of the legendary Motown studio band, The Funk Brothers. You know Dennis's work from The Supremes, "Someday We'll Be Together," Frieda Payne's "Band of Gold," and Edwin Starr's "War." Dennis Coffey's song "Scorpio" was played on Soul Train, but GinoVannelli was the Jackie Robinson of Blue-Eyed Soul, breaking the color barrier on a show that was the major television outlet for Black artists. If you put it all in context, Gino was more like the Suzzette Charles, the second Black Miss America, but because Vanessa Williams was stripped of her title, Ms. Charles, the runner-up, who graciously stepped in to wear the bling, is referred to as the FIRST.
Whatever. Gino was the first white dude on Soul Train.
Read this in your most SOULFUL Don Cornelious Voice: (Source: Wikipedia)
Born in Montreal, Quebec, Vannelli is one of three sons (Joe, Gino, and Ross) born to Russ and Delia Vannelli. Russ, his father, was a big band musician. As a child, Gino's greatest passion was music, and he began playing percussion at an early age. By the age of 15, Gino began writing songs. Just out of high school, he signed his first recording contract with RCA under the pseudonym Vann Elli, but went on to study music at McGill University.
We salute you Black History Pioneer, Gino Vannelli!
Bonus Jonas, Y'all..here's 33 seconds of Dennis Coffey's "Scorpio." Why only 33 seconds? Because we only got