Pioneering Voice of “Soul Train” Seeks Compensation for 50 Years of Iconic Scream

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The iconic TV show “Soul Train” is facing a federal lawsuit filed by Joe Cobb, one of its original voices. Cobb, who famously introduced the show with his soulful scream, is seeking at least $75,000 in back royalties from the current owners of the show, Paramount Global, CBS Entertainment, and Black Entertainment Television.

Cobb’s association with “Soul Train” dates back to the 1960s when he and Don Cornelius, the show’s creator, worked together at WVON, a Black radio station in Chicago. While Cobb initially used the phrase “soul train” as a prank, Cornelius loved it so much that he asked Cobb to officially record and introduce the show. As the show gained popularity and moved to California, Cobb’s voice became synonymous with “Soul Train” during its entire syndication run from 1971 to 2006.

However, despite Cobb’s voice being prominently used in the show, he claims that his royalty checks stopped in 2008, while his voice continued to be utilized without his permission. Now 80 years old and running a popcorn store in Little Rock, Arkansas, Cobb asserts that he never gave his consent for the continued use of his voice and the “Soul Train” scream.

Since filing the lawsuit, Cobb has faced significant challenges in obtaining information about his case. He alleges that SAG-AFTRA, the union representing actors and entertainers, disavowed any record of his work and failed to provide him with necessary details. Cobb had been a member of the union when he worked on “Soul Train” but severed ties after Cornelius sold the show’s rights.

The impact of “Soul Train” on African American culture and popular music cannot be understated. For decades, the show entertained and showcased Black youth, music, and fashion. From memorable performances by legendary artists like Aretha Franklin and the Jackson 5 to the early days of hip-hop with Grandmaster Flash, “Soul Train” left an indelible mark on popular culture.

Cobb’s lawyer, Manotti L. Jenkins, highlights the significance of his client’s contributions and aims to secure proper compensation for them. The lawsuit not only seeks financial restitution but also aims to ensure that Cobb receives recognition for his valuable role in shaping Black American and American popular culture.

As of now, there has been no comment from CBS Entertainment, Paramount Global, Black Entertainment Television, or SAG-AFTRA regarding the lawsuit. The case brings to light the complexities surrounding intellectual property and the exploitation of artists’ work without appropriate compensation or consent.

The legacy of “Soul Train” lives on through DVD box sets, syndicated reruns, and even ringtones. However, the extent of Cobb’s voice usage and the compensation owed to him remain uncertain. This legal battle raises important questions about the protection of artists’ rights and serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by creators in the entertainment industry.