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Black Activists - Don Cornelius

Updated on February 1, 2012

Don Cornelius was born September 27, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois and died February 1, 2012 in Sherman Oaks, California. Don Cornelius is best known as the creator and host of the dance and music show, Soul Train. Soul Train was a long running show that aired for 35 years and launched other shows such as the Soul Train Music Awards and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. Soul Train was Don Cornelius’ brain child, inspired by the show American Bandstand but aimed at young African Americans. Cornelius developed the show because he felt that it was necessary to have a vehicle for African American musicians, singers and dancers as well as having a show that African Americans could watch and relate to. Soul Train premiered in 1970 and aired on Saturday mornings, children and teenagers who were home from school were the biggest viewing audience for Soul Train. Soul Train helped to spread Black music around the world and helped to give wide world exposure to many African American singers and musicians.

Don Cornelius was a former disc jockey and television personality when he pitched his idea of the show that he created, produced and hosted. The show quickly gained success. Don Cornelius was the perfect host with his good looks and deep voice that soon became synonymous with Soul Train. The show showcased many talented singers and musicians mostly from the R&B genre although there were other acts and genres that were featured as well. Don Cornelius helped to change how black music was viewed and made serious contributions to the African American culture as a whole through television and music.

As a child I remember sitting in front of the television each and every Saturday to catch the latest dance moves especially in the Soul Train line. I also enjoyed listening to the different artists that were introduced each and every week. For me it was much more than just music and dancing, it was also the fashions and the fun of trying to learn new moves. For me Soul Train was a weekly event that had my total attention for the duration of the show. Once the show ended I could barely wait until the next week to catch the musical guest. I was hooked.

I was saddened to hear of Don Cornelius’ death because he truly was a staple of my childhood and although I never met him I felt like I knew him because he was in my living room each and every Saturday bringing me music, dance and fashion for years.

Don Cornelius was innovator with a vision for African Americans, with one brilliant idea he created a show that lead the way for many other programs. Don Cornelius will be truly missed. As Don Cornelius used to say at the close of Soul Train each and every week, “and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”


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