The news of Don Cornelius’s death has me, like many people, thinking about his legacy and his iconic show, Soul Train.
Soul Train was a funky forum for emerging talent and a place where young, super-cool dancers in the seventies, eighties and nineties could strut their stuff. It was also one of the longest running syndicated shows on television. Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, The O’Jays and Gladys Knight & The Pips are just some of the acts who performed on Soul Train.
Cornelius, a former radio disc jockey, hosted, wrote and produced the show. His contribution to popular culture is immense. He was a curator of cool who broke down color barriers. Through the Soul Train Dance Line, Cornelius and his show swiftly influenced fashion, hairstyles and dance moves. Cornelius is also credited with giving much of white America its first glimpse of black culture.
I remember Soul Train as my television oasis. Growing up in pre-cable suburbia severely limited my tv viewing options. Clicking past sporting events, static, and local news, to finally find Soul Train on a Saturday afternoon was like hitting the jackpot.
Rest in peace, Mr. Cornelius.