Soul Train's Don Cornelius dies at 75

Don Cornelius, a seminal figure in the development and popularization of soul music and much more in America, has died at age 75, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot. Cornelius was involved four years ago in a bitter divorce that drained him physically and mentally, and had suffered from continued ill health - including a stroke and brain surgery - for several years.

Don Cornelius, a seminal figure in the development and popularization of soul music and much more in America, has died at age 75, reportedly from a self-inflicted gunshot. Cornelius was involved four years ago in a bitter divorce that drained him physically and mentally, and had suffered from continued ill health - including a stroke and brain surgery - for several years.

As the creator of Soul Train (which aired from 1971 through 2006) and its host for more than two decades, Cornelius brought a new view to the previously staid American television: that of a vibrant, creative African American culture that came into our living rooms every week.  Each Saturday, millions of Americans (including this writer) were glued to their televisions to see not only their favorite musical acts, but also developments in dance and style that could be found nowhere else. Soul Train had an amazing run in the 70s and became a centerpiece of that decade's cultural development in the US and elsewhere.

Cornelius, with his smooth delivery and understated style, was the perfect host, oozing with cool and comfortable in the presence of both teenage kids and the most famous people in the world.  Every major R&B star of the era appeared on Soul Train -- often multiple times -- and the show introduced the world to countless hit songs, new dances and new fashion while featuring artists ranging from James Brown to the O'Jays to Shalamar, a group made up of former Soul Train dancers.

Quincy Jones said, in a statement, "Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business. Before MTV there was 'Soul Train,' that will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius. His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched. My heart goes out to Don's family and loved ones."

As the visionary leader of Soul Train, Cornelius's impact on American culture cannot be overstated.  Nor can his impact on my teenage Saturday afternoons and wardrobe.

Don Cornelius, we wish you Love, Peace and Soul.

By Chris Rizik

 

 
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