When Don Cornelius promised the "hottest jams and stars in the world," he wasn't messing around.
The creator and longtime face of Soul Train may be gone, but he made a lasting impact on pop culture with his R&B-championing song-and-dance show and subsequent Soul Train Music Awards.
Over the show's 35 years on the air, some of the biggest names in music hit the stage that Cornelius built, from Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin to R. Kelly and T.I.. It's pretty much impossible to narrow it down, but here are five other acts who boarded the train early in their careers—and rode it right to superstardom:
1. Mariah Carey: Does this young lady look familiar to you? A 21-year-old Mimi first appeared on Soul Train in 1991 to perform her career-altering hit, "Emotions," backup dancers getting funky alongside her. Do you remember the days when Carey dressed in head-to-toe black? Neither do we!
2. James Brown: At the height of his solo powers, Brown was a guest on Soul Train several times in 1973 and 1974, singing soon-to-be classics like "Hot Pants" and "Sex Machine" and exuding raw primal heat.
3. Destiny's Child: Back when there were four of them, that is! Check out a practically unrecognizable Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland introducing themselves to host Mystro Clark (Cornelius stepped down permanently in 1993) shortly before their debut album dropped in 1998.
4. The Jackson 5: That hair! Those pants! The history-making siblings—and especially barely 14-year-old Michael Jackson—were a runaway hit on Soul Train in 1972. The quintet appeared once more all together, after which Michael made several more solo appearances.
5. Gladys Knight & the Pips: Knight and her merry men were already big deals when they appeared on the first ever episode of Soul Train, a show of good faith that Cornelius never forgot. They performed the fittingly titled "Friendship Train" on that inaugural show—and music television was never the same.