R.I.P. Don Cornelius
On this, the first day of Black History Month 2012, there's some sad news coming out of Los Angeles: Don Cornelius, a legend who changed television forever, was found dead this morning at his home of an apparent suicide.
Don Cornelius: May he rest in peace, love and soul.
The 75-year-old Chicago-bred civil rights-inspired journalist was the epitome of soul. As the writer, host and producer of Soul Train, Cornelius created a platform of prime television exposure for the greatest soul music stars of all time, including Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and countless others.
Born Donald Cortez Cornelius in Chicago in 1936, Cornelius got his start in the mid '60s at a local Chicago area radio station where he was hired after finishing broadcasting school. A short time later, he transitioned into television at a local television affiliate, WCIU, where he introduced Soul Train in 1970.
The first program of its kind to feature the sounds and scenes of African-American music culture, Soul Train garnered a national audience in 1971 when it earned syndication and then beamed into homes all across the country. With Cornelius serving as the show's debonaire host for more than two decades, Soul Train was an undeniably ground-breaking series that hosted and helped introduce America to the some of the greatest and most influential soul and R&B artists of all time.
Two years after moving on from his hosting duties, Cornelius was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. After his departure in the mid '90s, the show continued on with a number of hosts until finally concluding in 2006. Without question, Cornelius was an icon, a trend setter and one of the most important figures in black culture. Soul Train not only changed television, it changed black life.
Rest in love, peace and soul, Don.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music