Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Remembering Soul Train's Don Cornelius

Posted By on Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 11:29 AM


Word went out this morning about the sudden death of Don Cornelius, creator of the music-centric TV show “Soul Train.” And while the cause of his death is still being discovered (early reports point to a self-inflicted gunshot wound), my fear is that the things he accomplished in his life will be glossed over or forgotten.

Many folks think of Cornelius and “Soul Train” as sort of humorous relics of the past. But, before music videos — and before African Americans were allowed to perform on television without restriction or alteration — “Soul Train” was, for decades, the cultural portal of black America.

Cornelius’ show was the place to learn about the latest fashions, slang and, of course, dances; my friends and I would watch the show religiously and snatch moves we would later use in house parties and such.

“Soul Train” was the place that showed the “moonwalk” being demonstrated for the first time (and not by Michael Jackson) And, it was one of the first national venues to show breakdancing in its earliest forms.

Most importantly, it was the only place you could see black artists — singers, musicians and even comedians — who would never crossover to mainstream white America.

And, in return, the show introduced a number of white artists to black America.

“Soul Train,” which stopped airing new episodes in 2006, is missed. But Don Cornelius will be missed much, much more.

Ed. note: VH1's excellent hour-long 2010 documentary, "Soul Train: Hippest Trip in America" is on YouTube, but it might not be for long. BET is re-airing it tonight (Wed., Feb. 1) at 8 p.m. EST. And BET sister station Centric begins a 24-hour marathon of classic "Soul Train" episodes tonight at midnight.

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