I may be young but I’m not too young to remember Don Cornelius and his legacy with Soul Train. The creator and longtime host of Soul Train died early Wednesday morning in Los Angeles.
Before BET and MTV there was Soul Train, the American Bandstand for blacks. Cornelius had a dream of generating a show for the black audience. With this dream Soul Train aired its first episode in 1971. Cornelius retired as host in 1993 and the show ceased production in 2006. It was the longest first-run syndicated television series in broadcast history.
Soul Train opened the door for many soulful singers, such as James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. For the hip-hop industry artists such as Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J, and Big Daddy Kane have made appearances. If I mentioned an artist that you don’t know, just go ask your parents, they’ll know who I’m talking about. They’ll even throw more names at you like Al B. Sure, Betty Wright, New Edition, Teddy Riley, Con Funk Shun, and Stacy Lattisaw. There are just too many great artists to name; the list could go on and on. Some artists have even made multiple appearances on the show. The best of the best performed on Soul Train.
As my mother reflected on the life of Cornelius she said, “He kept our soul revived with the music he brought each week.” Soul Train took my mom from her childhood years to marriage and into motherhood. In her youth, Soul Train was not only used to get the latest dance moves, it also helped people decide on what to wear to the club and parties on the weekend.
When I was younger I loved watching reruns with Cheryl Song dancing. For those of you who think you don’t know her, she’s the Asian lady with the long hair. One of my favorite episodes, well rerun, is the one with Kool Moe Dee performing his infamous song, “How Ya Like Me Now.”
The music industry has lost another icon. Even though he wasn’t a singer he had a great impact on the black music industry, making a path for Centric and BET.
Thank you Don Cornelius for shaping the music industry for African-Americans and taking us on the “hippest trip in America.” May you rest in Love, Peace and Soul.