Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Black History Month: Don Cornelius

I was going to wake up this morning and start posting about influential rockers of color, when I heard the news that Soul Train creator and host Don Cornelius died of an apparent suicide.

Our generation is spoiled when it comes to listening to black artists and having all of these avenues (on radio, television, and now the Internet) for promoting their music.

That was not the case 40 years ago, when Soul Train was born. It was wonderful because it was happening in the golden age of soul and R&B music when you had Aretha Franklin, James Brown, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and countless other artists playing Soul Train at the peaks of their careers, performing the best songs of their priceless catalogs.

As a kid, my Saturday morning television viewing consisted of the occasional morning cartoons, but they were dominated by Dick Clark's American Bandstand and Don Cornelius' Soul Train.

The Soul Train dancing line is one of the most iconic images in television history and is often imitated at special events, such as weddings today.

The legacy of the program still lives on Centric Television, where it still airs vintage episodes of Soul Train today. In fact, the Soul Train Music Awards also live on through Centric years after Soul Train was canceled (the show ended producing new episodes after 2006).

It would be hard to imagine the music world without the influence of Soul Train because of where music stands right now with rap and a little known soul-influenced singer by the name of Adele dominating top 40 airwaves.

Initially, Soul Train was reluctant to air rap artists themselves, but with the influence of popular television shows such as YO MTV Raps! popping up, Soul Train soon followed suit despite Cornelius' aversions.

It is extremely sad to hear of Cornelius' passing, especially in conjunction with the start of Black History Month, but the influence of Cornelius and Soul Train on the industry will not soon be forgotten.

No comments: