When the "Soul Train Awards 2012" air at 8 p.m. on Sunday on BET and Centric, the annual musical celebration, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, will pay tribute to "Soul Train" founder Don Cornelius, who passed away on Feb. 1.
"We're going hard! We're gonna take the whole train and go to Vegas!" Cedric the Entertainer told MadameNoire.com.
In addition to honoring Cornelius, who founded the syndicated version of "Soul Train" in 1971, the 25th awards gala, videotaped at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on Nov. 8, will present vocal group New Edition with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the 2012 ceremony celebrating the "Soul Train" brand and recognizing the "artists who made a great impact on today's music," multi-talented singer/songwriter R. Kelly becomes the most-nominated artist in "Soul Train Awards" history while R&B superstar Usher leads this year's nominations with a total of five. On a sad note, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse, who passed away earlier this year, received posthumous nominations.
The nominees are competing in a number of categories, including Best New Artist, Best Gospel/Inspirational Performance, Best Hip-Hop Song of the Year, Best R&B/Soul Female Artist, Best R&B/Soul Male Artist, Album of the Year and Song of the Year. The "Ashford & Simpson Songwriter's Award" goes to the songwriter whose influence has been "felt throughout the industry," while "Soul Train" and Centric present the "Centric Award" to an artist whose "essence is a positive reflection of both brands."
The diverse and intriguing list of presenters includes Jamie Foxx, Billy Crystal, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Donny and Marie Osmond, Tom Joyner, Estelle, Melanie Fiona, Kat Graham, Luke James, Jimmy Jam, Jody Watley, Dougie Fresh, Tony Rock, Mike Bivins, Gary Owen, Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones, Kenny Lattimore, Tamar Braxton, Lil Mama, and Julius "Dr. J" Erving, as well as comedian George Wallace, who has been in residence at the Flamingo Las Vegas since 2003.
The star-studded evening includes performances by Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Fantasia, John Legend, Charlie Wilson, Marcus Canty, Leah LaBelle, Elle Varner, 2Chainz, Ne-Yo, Anthony Hamilton, Raphael Saadiq, Eddie Levert and Keyshia Cole.
Highlights of the show include heartfelt words from Don Cornelius' son, Tony Cornelius, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eddie Levert belting out "Casanova," which was written and recorded by his beloved son Gerald. The joyous closing number was courtesy of Stevie Wonder, who delivered a rousing medley of his hits including "Superstition," as well as "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," which has become synonymous with President Barack Obama.
"It's always good to be at the 'Soul Train Awards,'" says R&B/hip hop artist Angie Stone. "It's our people and it's great things, and it's Don Cornelius. His legacy is still surpassed, even in his passing."