Wednesday, February 1, 2012

BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHTS: DONALD "DON" CORNELIUS + DON DIES AT 75



"I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for Soul Train."
Donald Cortez "Don" Cornelius was born in Chicago on September 27, 1936.

Don got his start working as an insurance salesman in the 1950s. Cornelius later attended broadcasting school in 1966. Originally a journalist inspired by the civil rights movement, Cornelius recognized that in the late 1960s there was no television venue in the United States for soul music, and introduced many African-American musicians to a larger audience as a result of their appearances on Soul Train, a program that was both influential among African-Americans and popular with a wider audience.

Don pitched his TV idea for an African American version of Dick Clark's American Bandstand, using $400 of his own money to film a Soul Train pilot in 1969. He took the show's name from a music promotional event that he had recently staged.

"I'm Don Cornelius, and always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!"
The Saturday morning show, which debuted in Chicago in 1970, was popular enough to be syndicated the following year. On it, Cornelius introduced some of the top names in R&B, including Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson, and, over time, rock stars and jazz acts also appeared.


Read more after the break!
As writer, producer, and host of Soul Train, Cornelius was instrumental in offering wider exposure to black musicians like James Brown and Michael Jackson, as well as creating opportunities for talented dancers that would presage subsequent television dance programs.




In 1987, Cornelius instituted the annual Soul Train Awards, which honored Stevie Wonder the first year. Cornelius remained as Soul Train host until 1993, when guest hosts took over.


By 2005, the show was syndicated to 105 cities and was said to have reached an estimated 85 percent of African American households. The show ended in 2006, when Chicago's Tribune Company shut down its TV distribution arm.

Cornelius sold the show to MadVision Entertainment in 2008.

Today (Feb. 1), officers responding to a report of a shooting found Cornelius at his Mulholland Drive home at around 4 a.m.

He was pronounced dead at 4:56 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.

Don Cornelius was 75.

I was both shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of the late, great Don Cornelius! The irony that Don Cornelius who not only made black history, but history period as one of the first African-Americans to create a nationally syndicated show, Soul Train, would die on the 1st day of Black History month.

Don Cornelius made the world stand and take notice of our culture and our music on a national stage and later a global one.

He was the Bob Johnson before Bob Johnson knew he could be a Bob Johnson. 

I remember growing up in the 80s and 90s and every Saturday morning, like clock work, my brother and sisters and I rushed downstairs to catch Souuuuuullllll Train!

You will be sorely missed Mr. Cornelius!



Photos: Google Images
Source: CNN.com, People.com, BET.com and Wikipedia.org

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