As an awkward whiteboy sporting a buzzcut in the upper Midwest during the 1970's, Soul Train was a HUGE catalyst to my way of thinking. Maybe not in the sense of being a springboard into some lifelong commitment to Black culture and art, but definitely in terms of providing a reliable frisson of contrast and excitement.
Sure, I would live out the '70's and '80's as an extremely awkward and conventional white kid, but watching what was for me the totally unprecedented display of unabashed sybaritic revelry and an aesthetic that could leverage bold emphasis as much as understatement really blew open doors in my mind. As exciting as the Beatles' excursions outside of the 4-piece pop paradigm were to a boy raised on Johnny Horton's "The Battle Hymn of The Republic", the O'Jays represented an even more interesting departure. They could be more conventional than the Beatles in terms of instrumentation, harmonic and melodic structures, but offered way more rhythmically novelty, and with a much warmer timbre.
*How's THAT for a mixed metaphor?