Today in Music History (February 1): "Soul Train" leader Don Cornelius dies

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    By John Mathew Smith & www.celebrity-photos.com from Laurel Maryland, USA - Don Cornelius, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75822462

    February 1, 2012 – Soul Train’s Don Cornelius Dies

    He was a young man from Chicago with a big dream, and he changed the world. Don Cornelius was much more than a television host. He was a visionary businessman who opened the world to a celebration of “Black Joy” on television as few had seen before, through his three decade run on the iconic Soul Train. And on this day in 2012, the world lost Mr. Cornelius, when he died at age 75 after a series of physical and emotional setbacks had taken their toll on his psyche, and he took his own life.

    February 1, 2012 – Soul Train’s Don Cornelius Dies

    He was a young man from Chicago with a big dream, and he changed the world. Don Cornelius was much more than a television host. He was a visionary businessman who opened the world to a celebration of “Black Joy” on television as few had seen before, through his three decade run on the iconic Soul Train. And on this day in 2012, the world lost Mr. Cornelius, when he died at age 75 after a series of physical and emotional setbacks had taken their toll on his psyche, and he took his own life.

    As the creator and host of Soul Train (which aired from 1971 through 2006), 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).

    On the day of Cornelius’s death, Quincy Jones said, “Don’s contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched,” and he was right. As the iconic leader of Soul Train, Cornelius's impact on American culture is tough to overstate. And years after his passing, his weekly farewell wish to all of us still rings true: Love, Peace and Soul.

    By Chris Rizik