Don Cornelius (September 27, 1936 – February 1, 2012)
As a child of the 70’s, I grew up watching two shows. “Soul Train” & “American Bandstand” were the two staples in my weekend TV diet. I loved the interviews that Don Cornelius conducted in that beautiful,baritone voice of his. I was in total awe of this elegant, sophisticated man. Sure, the acts & dancers were absolutely terrific but he was one of the main reasons why folks tuned in every weekend to “Soul Train”. He was a soulful being who seemed to embody the very essence of soul.Folks like Don Cornelius & Billy Dee Williams made it that much cooler to be black. Don Cornelius will remain an American cultural icon. Or,as some have said, an “American treasure.”
Here’s more on this self-made American icon from The Associated Press:
“Soul Train” aired nationally from 1971 to 2006. Asked why it endured, he told The New York Times in 1995: “There is an inner craving among us all, within us all, for television that we can personally connect to.” He stepped down as host in 1993, and sold it to MadVision Entertainment in 2008.
“Don Cornelius was a pioneer & a trailblazer,” Earvin “Magic” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “He was the first African-American to create, produce, host & more importantly OWN his own show.”
Though “Soul Train” became one of the longest-running syndicated shows in TV history, its power began to wane in the 1980s and ’90s as American pop culture began folding in black culture instead of keeping it segregated.
By that time, there were more options for black artists to appear on mainstream shows. And on shows like “American Bandstand,” blacks could be seen dancing along with whites.
But even when Michael Jackson became the King of Pop, there was still a need to highlight the achievements of African-Americans that were still marginalized at mainstream events. So Cornelius created the “Soul Train Awards,” which would become a key honor for musicians. The series also spawned the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards and the Soul Train Christmas Starfest.
Along the way, however, Cornelius became estranged from a changing music scene that clashed with his relatively conservative taste. But while he suggested violently or sexually explicit gangsta rap should be labeled “X-rated,” Cornelius said the focus should be on eliminating poverty and violence from low-income black communities.
DJ Scratch, the DJ from the rap act EPMD, tweeted on Wednesday that Cornelius “100% didn’t like Hip Hop. But he realized that it was what the youth wanted. So again, I thank you Don.”
Cornelius’ world grew dark in recent years as he faced fallout from a divorce and other pressures. In 2009, he was sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery and, in his divorce case that year, he also mentioned having significant health problems.
He has two children, Anthony and Raymond, with his first wife, Delores Harrison.
Cornelius, who was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said in 2006 he remained grateful to the musicians who made “Soul Train” the destination for the best and latest in black music.
“As long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for ‘Soul Train,'” he said. (End of Excerpt) Read more here.