The 2019 Soul Train Awards made its inaugural live debut at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday (November 17).
The night was marked by electrifying performances from talents like SiR, Wale, Luke James, Boyz II Men and K. Michelle followed by a soul-raising medley from the queen of gospel, Yolanda Adams, who was also honored as the Lady of Soul. The night capped off with legendary songwriting duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis delivering the closing remarks, who were honored with the Legend award.
Outside of the performances and dazzling stages, the acceptance speeches also delivered some of the show’s most rewarding and unforgettable moments. Not only were they moments for some of music’s greatest to reflect over their illustrious, groundbreaking careers, but a time for them to share poignant words that will linger in our minds long after the curtains have closed. Fittingly, the 2019 Soul Train Awards took place where a number of gospel and R&B’s luminaries delivered soul-stirring words that took us to church.
Here are the best moments from this year’s speeches at the 2019 Soul Train Awards.
As one of the youngest artists to grace the stage, H.E.R. made sure to highlight those that paved the way before she was even old enough to put pen to paper. With her peers watching on, the 22-year-old songstresses invoked the names of legendary predecessors that broke down doors and barriers for not just Black music, but also Black culture.
“I just want to say, you can’t understand today without understanding yesterday. Soul music is literally the foundation of R&B and hip-hop today,” the "Focus" singer acknowledged; she took home the award for Best R&B Soul female artist. “I just want us to acknowledge our legends. If you are 22 years old, a Millennial, or Generation Z, you need to understand that Soul Train is more than an awards show. It’s Michael [Jackson], it’s Stevie [Wonder], it's Smokey Robinson, it's Aretha [Franklin], it's everybody that came before us, so I just want to acknowledge that. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, I’m so thankful for your music.”
When it was his time to take the stage to accept BET’s Best Gospel/Inspirational award, Kirk Franklin’s rousing acceptance speech struck a chord with a lot of viewers.
“I want to say to every last one of you here that you may feel discouraged and you may feel like you're being forgotten, and may feel like your time and God has forgotten you. First of all, if you know you have a gift inside of you, make some noise,” the gospel legend began as the audience answered back with whistles and jubilant cries of joy.
With the crowd riled up, Franklin continued, “I need for all of you to know when I was younger, but before I got married, what I ate was microwavable food because I was single and couldn’t cook. The problem with microwaveable foods is after you stick a fork in the middle, it is still cold. The reason why grandmama’s cooking was so good is because she didn’t cook Sunday dinner Sunday evening. She started it on Saturday night and she let it marinate overnight. That’s why it’s so good.
“The reason your gift is not like all these other gifts that is so microwavable is because God put something in you that is too great. You got to know that what’s inside of you is so great that is taking a little longer because God did not call you to be microwavable. He wants you to know that what's inside of you is like grandmama’s greens. So don’t give up. Your time is coming.”
Ahead of their joint performance of “Collide” with R&B songstress Tiana Major9, Doctur Dot (also known as WowGr8 and one half of ATLien hip-hop duo EarthGang) opened with spoken word that delivered some much-needed poetic justice as he painted a heartrending portrait of Black love in America in one of the night's most unforgettable and moving performances.
“Black joy is fleeting. Black love is magic. This Black unity is our weapon of choice. What’s more powerful than two Black hands holding each other and refusing to let go?” Doctur Dot poeticized, backdropped by a visage of Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith as their characters from Queen & Slim, of which the record is also on the soundtrack for.
“Police brutality. Black bodies swinging from trees. What’s more American than that? This ain’t no Black Bonnie & Clyde. This is what happens when two Black bodies collide,” he concluded, as Johnny Venus, seated on a cornucopia of flowers and car rims alongside Tiana, soulfully crooned the opening verses as guitar chords rang out elegantly in the background.
Before Yolanda Adams delivered a sanctifying medley of her greatest hits, the newly appointed Lady of Soul already had spirits soaring in acceptance as she graciously thanked her fans, God and her industry peers for putting the wind under her wings, which helped her soar from a choir voice to gospel icon. As Adams’ speech came to a close, the songstress paid a special ode to her “one shining star,” her daughter, Taylor Crawford, as she proclaimed, “I could not have done any of this without [you].”
“You are my light,” Adam said of Taylor.
“If I can be half of that radiant smile you give me every time I look at you, little lady, if I can live up to that, I have done my job, because you are amazing. I love you so much,” the Lady of Soul finished as she thanked her longtime supporters and industry peers one last time for bearing through the test of time with her.
As one of the most anticipated performances of the night, living legends Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis took the time to reflect over the long road they traveled to becoming two of music’s most prolific hit makers. Jimmy Jam kicked off their speech, hearkening back to when he and Terry were just getting started in the industry and the pivotal role that other icons played in launching their legacy, including the Black Godfather himself, Clarence Avant, and funk-R&B icon Prince, who gave the songwriting duo one of their first critical breaks.
“I want to thank the people who gave us a safe haven, gave us a basement to work in, listened to the noise before it became songs,” Jimmy said, as he recalled a hilarious reaction from his mother during one particular session.
As Lewis took over the mic, he poignantly said that “the best part of being a legend is the living part.”
“It’s not a Lifetime Achievement award, because our lifetime achievement is not over yet.” Lewis noted before he thanked their countless supporters for finding solace in the duo’s words. “The saying is, leave a place better than you found out. So if our music has uplifted you, our lyrics have spoken for you in those moments that you maybe didn’t know what to say, if we made your booty shake in the club, or your spirit rise, or been the soundtrack for living your best life, thank you for listening,” he finished.
(Photo L-R: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET and Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)