African American TV Pioneer Exposed Audiences to Black Culture
Many Americans are recalling an icon in the entertainment industry following the death of longtime African American TV producer and music show host Don Cornelius. The 75-year-old Cornelius, who had been in declining heath for years, died Wednesday, February 1 from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The television pioneer had an amazing career and incredible impact on the music world.
“I had a burning desire to see black people presented on television in a positive light,” said Cornelius.
Cornelius created Soul Train in 1970, with just $400. He hosted the hugely popular music and dance show for more than two decades. It was must-see TV for the latest fashion trends, innovative dance moves and black music hits.
Ralph Herndon is a pianist with the Choral Arts Society of Washington. He has fond memories of the show.
“Soul Train was like having a party at your house every Saturday. Something that our black youth had to look forward to, something they could identify with,” said Herndon.
Soul Train helped to propel the musical careers of giants such as Michael Jackson, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. The weekly show was the first TV program specifically geared towards African Americans.
By the time it went off the air in 2003 Soul Train had become one of the longest-running syndicated shows in U.S. television history. Cornelius hosted the show until 1993. Herndon said the TV icon helped so many recording artists.
“We probably would not have come this far had it not been for Don Cornelius and Soul Train being a catapult for a lot of black artists,” said Herndon.
Other Soul Train fans agree and say Cornelius introduced the music of black Americans to the world, and to their fellow Americans.