Don Cornelius and Soul Train

imagesCAT4K7V9When my sister told me the heartbreaking news about Don Cornelius this morning, I was floored. We were both in shock and disbelief. Don Cornelius was someone we both grew up watching. It just wasn’t Saturday without “Soul Train”. We would not leave the house until it was off. At the end of every episode, I was secretly disappointed to see it come to an end. However, it was total joy and elation preparing for it to come on each week.

Funny thing is I was the one who introduced my family to “Soul Train”. It was 1975, and I was trying to find something to watch one Saturday afternoon, following cartoons. I ran across “Soul Train”, and was hooked immediately. I would watch it for the next 18 years, until Don left in 1993. I tried to continue watching it afterwards, but it just was not the same. Along with “American Bandstand”, watching “Soul Train” was a weekly ritual in our home.

Don always had this subtle, low-key style, which was beyond cool. He was suave. In the early days, he had the big ‘fro, and high platforms. As time went on, the ‘fro became smaller, with three-piece suits replacing the platforms. He would later switch to the jeri curl, and remove the glasses. He’s always reminded us of our uncle, who has that same low, deep voice and glasses. The two look identical. Don might have been on the somewhat reserved side, but he had a distinct way of being able to connect with the audience. He went on to become a legend, a highly respected innovator within the entertainment industry. Don was a pioneer, a trailblazer. I love all kinds of music, however ’70s and ’80s soul/R&B is my all-time favorite. “Soul Train” had a lot to do with that. Don Cornelius had a dream to create to TV show which would represent black America, and give us a sense of pride. He accomplished that goal, and made a lot of us very happy along the way. By the ’80s, you began seeing white, Asian, and Hispanic dancers, which was solid proof of the show’s impact not only upon black America, but America itself.

While struggling with my feelings of sadness, I find myself remembering happy memories, too. I recall watching KC and the Sunshine Band while sitting on the kitchen table at my Grandparents’ house. I was delighted and surprised to see Frankie Valli appear, and sing the theme to the movie “Grease”. When Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald appeared together to sing their smash hit “On My Own” in 1986, I remember the astonished look on our Grandfather’s face when he heard him sing. Whenever I had a birthday party, it was usually on a Saturday. I had to watch “Soul Train” first. When the group GQ made their debut with “Disco Nights”, Mom asked me from the other room what was the name of the song. She would buy both the 45 and album a short time later. There was a many song our Mom heard within an episode she would go out and buy. Meanwhile,  my sister and I loved to sing and dance along with the music. We bonded a lot during those times. I remember how much we enjoyed seeing TV favorites Jasmine Guy, Sherman Hemsley, and Brian Austin Greene make appearances in the early ’90s.

From Diana Ross to Teddy Pendergrass to New Edition and David Bowie, the best of the best hit that “Soul Train” stage. It was always so exciting to see who would show up next. The fashions, the dance moves, the hairstyles.. they were as significant as the music. And who could ever forget that Soul Train line? When we watch the reruns, we still like to playfully analyze the dancers. “Soul Train” wasn’t just a TV show. It was a weekly event, an integral part of your life. I feel very privileged and honored to have come of age in those days.

I hope Don has achieved the peace he did not have in life. He will forever be missed, but never forgotten. Love you, Don.


~ by kmnnz on February 1, 2012.

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