Donald Cortez “Don” Cornelius was best known for producing and creating the nationally syndicated dance and music franchise “#Soul Train”. Cornelius opened up doors for people all over the world to be able to see some of the most talented African-American music artists in the country. Corneilus hosted the show from 1971 until 1993. Cornelius was also known for his deep voice that often had young people glued to the television sets to see the upcoming new artists, and stars who were already on record labels.
Don Corneilius was born on Chicago’s South Side on September 27, 1936, and raised in the Bronzeville neighborhood. He worked various jobs until he decided to quit working and take a 3-month broadcasting course in 1966. After the class he took landed a job as an announcer, news reporter and disc jockey on Chicago radio station WVON. One of Cornelius visible characteristics was he stood roughly 6 ft 4, and wore a distinguished well-groomed afro.
He hosted a program called A #Black’s View of the News in 1967, and in 1970, he launched Soul Train on WCIU-TV as a daily local show. The show was so popular it entered nation syndication and was moved to Los Angeles the following Year. The national debut of the show had artist such as Gladys Knight & the Pips, Honey Cone, and Eddie Kendricks.
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. He introduced many Black 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. As writer, producer, and host of Soul Train, Cornelius was instrumental in offering wider exposure to black musicians such as Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown, and many talented dancers.
Before Soul Train there was not too many people seen on TV. There were many Black people who had heard of these talented artist but had never seen them in performance. Many people didn’t have money during those times to travel to see people perform live. Cornelius was known for many of his catchphrases that he used during the show such as “and you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I’m #Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!” Corneilus had surgery in the year of 1982 to correct a congenital deformity in his cerebral arteries. He admitted that he was never quite the same after that surgery. Corneilus died of a gunshot self-inflicted wound in 2012. According to former Soul Train host Shemar Moore, Cornelius may have been suffering from early onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and his health had been in decline.