Don Cornelius, the deep-voiced host of Soul Train, has passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 75. Starting as a DJ and journalist, he was inspired by the Civil Rights movement to give a voice to black musicians on television. Cornelius then created Soul Train, which ran from 1971 through to 2006. Cornelius hosted from its inception until 1993, and stayed on as a producer until the end. Soul Train is still the longest running syndicated show in television history.
For those who grew up with Soul Train, its impact was indelible. Where American Bandstand focused more on the mainstream (and often safe), Soul Train offered something similar in terms of structure, but something infinitely more compelling. Here were people dancing, showboating perhaps, but free in a way that was not commonplace on television until the show became popular. And the talent they got… Here, take a look at some of the performers on the show:
The cultural impression the show made was such that musicians like David Bowie and Elton John would want to crossover to the soul market – which also gives an interesting context to their music and approach. But then also, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and many more made this a landmark show – not just for its lengthy run, but also for the indelible impression it made on pop culture.
“… and you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”