Donald Cortez Cornelius (1936 – 2012) creator of the long running music / dance show Soul Train was found dead in his Sherman Oaks, CA home early this morning. He was 75. Beginning his career as a radio announcer, “Don” wanted to produce a show akin to American Bandstand geared towards the African-American community.
On August 17, 1970 the first episode of Soul Train appeared on WCIU-TV in Chicago. It would go on to become one of the longest running shows of its kind running from 1971 to 2006. Don had achieved his dream of bringing African-American artists to a broader audience through their appearances on his show.
His list of guests included The Jackson 5, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and James Brown, just to name a few. As host and executive producer of Soul Train, Don’s show holds the distinction of being the longest continuously running first-run syndicated program in Television history. As someone who watched Soul Train I recall being riveted to the screen to find out what the latest dances and fashions were. In the creation of Soul Train Don Cornelius had found a way to give all people a glimpse into the African-American community through music and dance. I think that is Don’s crowning achievement.
His show-closing catchphrase said it best, “I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”
Rest In Peace, Don Cornelius. You will be missed.