Marking the first day of Black History Month, the Black community and all lovers of music and dance worldwide will begin its celebrations by paying tribute to the King of Soul Train, Don Cornelius. As the face and embodiment of a marginalized people, Cornelius helped integrate Black music and Black dance into homes of all colors and races nationwide. His slogan “Love, Peace, and Soul” catapulted the show to relevance for over 22 years (1971-1993) although the show continued to air up until 2006. These three words were essentially the embodiment of his life’s work, even through death.
“It’s always a pleasure to find something that matters,” said Cornelius. Early on, Cornelius was a motivated journalist by the Civil Rights Movement. As a radio host and personality on the influential WVON, he found something else that mattered to him just as much; this was music. Soul music was taking the Black world by storm, but there were no shows on syndicated television to expose them. Cornelius took his love for self, and his love for his people and their accomplishments and possibilities and placed them front-and-center to battle any other greats in all of entertainment.
As a writer, producer, and host, Don Cornelius created opportunities for dancers and singers alike on Soul Train. It became the “longest-running, first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history.” It highlighted new and fresh talents such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and even David Bowie. Don Cornelius and Soul Train gave a downtrodden people representation when there were none, pride when there was little, and hope for a continuous and evolving country.
Don Cornelius was found deceased earlier this morning in the privacy of his Sherman Oaks home this Wednesday morning. According to sources, he died of a self-inflicted wound. This alleged suicide comes two-and-a-half years after his bitter divorce in 2009, which he claimed stating “I am 72 years old. I have significant health issues. I want to finalize this divorce before I die.” While speculations of tumult proceeded his actions afterwards, the greatest understanding this allows us to see of Cornelius is that through the money and fame, he too, was only a human being battling the ups and downs of life. Through it all, he birthed a new nation of hope and belief leading up to the booming music industry today, including the legacy of Soul that led to Hip-Hop.
Rest in Power to Don Cornelius. Love, Peace, And (We Could Never Forget) Soul