Thursday, February 02, 2012

R.I.P Don Cornelius

From Reuters: "Don Cornelius, creator of iconic dance program "Soul Train" that helped introduce Americans to black culture on TV, died on Wednesday after shooting himself in the head, officials in Los Angeles said. [He said he was dealing with significant health issues during his 2009 divorce case.]

Police discovered the body of Cornelius, 75, at his house after responding to reports of shots fired in the wealthy, hillside area of Los Angeles called Sherman Oaks where he lived.

Cornelius launched "Soul Train" in the early 1970s as a local dance show from Chicago. It relocated to Los Angeles the following year and became part of pop culture history by boosting the careers of young artists such as the Jackson Five, and older artists such as James Brown who were trying to tap into a younger audience.

"Soul Train" aired until 2006, making it the longest running U.S. series in first-run syndication.

Civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton, a long time friend, expressed shock and grief over the news of the death. "He brought soul music and dance to the world in a way that it had never been shown and he was a cultural game changer on a global level," Sharpton said in a statement.

Composer-producer Quincy Jones said he was "deeply saddened" at the sudden passing of his friend, colleague and business partner. "Before MTV there was 'Soul Train,' that will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius," Jones said. "His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched."

ADDED: Why Don Cornelius matters by author Dan Charnas (well worth a read)
Billboard: Kenny Gamble remembers Don Cornelius, origins of Soul Train theme (TSOP)
Don Cornelius, the Billboard interviews, going way back to 1970
Don Cornelius: A Smooth Operator in the Name of Soul. NYTimes

VIDEOS: Aretha Franklin, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Heavy D, Jimmy Bo Horne.... and Don Cornelius grooving on the Soul Train dance line...

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