Magic Johnson Mulling 'Soul Train' Revival


The NBA star and owner of a soon-to-be-launched cable channel could bring Don Cornelius' classic series back to life on television.

Now that's he's backing a new cable channel, Magic Johnson aims to bring resurrect Soul Train.

According to The Associated Press, the ex-NBA star is looking at concepts for reviving the retro musical variety show that broke racial barriers and became a massive sensation in syndication. Soul Train, which ran from 1970 through 2006, was the brainchild of creator-host Don Cornelius, who died Feb. 1 of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Johnson is the brand-new boss of a cable network, dubbed Aspire, set to launch this summer. In an announcement Tuesday, Comcast said it will carry the channel along with other TV ventures backed by Sean "Diddy" Combs and director Robert Rodriguez.

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In 2011, his Magic Johnson Enterprises and Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Cos. purchased a stake in Vibe Holdings, the parent company of Soul Train Holdings; the group was created in 2008, when Cornelius sold the franchise to MadVision Entertainment and private-equity firm InterMedia Partners.

"Certainly we want to proceed in a way that will highlight the contribution of Don (Cornelius) to the creation of the brand and its subsequent impact on American culture," Kenard Gibbs, CEO of Soul Train Holdings, recently told The Hollywood Reporter of opportunities to expand Soul Train with a possible film, musical and TV show.

The AP cited Gibbs as saying that Johnson was interested in reviving the TV format. Among other Soul Train-related endeavors: a Broadway show, books and a "Soul Train" cruise vacation potentially scheduled to set sail in 2013.

Johnson’s Aspire, a partnership with GMC TV, will deliver "enlightening, entertaining and positive programming to African-Americans families," according to Comcast. Among the planned programming: movies, documentaries, short films, music, comedy, performing arts and faith-based shows.

"Aspire will be a network that encourages and challenges African-Americans to reach for their dreams and will appeal to all generations," Johnson said in a statement Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the BET Network -- which also has rights to the Soul Train brand -- will continue to air the Soul Train Awards, slated to air Nov. 25, complete with a tribute to Cornelius, the AP reported.

The awards ceremony, launched by Cornelius in 1987, has aired on BET since 2009.