Don Cornelius

TV Personality

Born: 27 September 1936
Died: 1 February 2012 (suicide)
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois
Best known as: The creator and host of the musical TV show Soul Train

Don Cornelius was the creator, producer, and longtime host of the long-running music show Soul Train. A former DJ and local TV sportscaster, Cornelius began hosting after-school dance parties in the Chicago area in 1969, parties which he called the Soul Train. He turned the idea into a show for Chicago station WCIU in 1970, then moved the show to Los Angeles and syndicated it across the country in 1971. Soul Train became an iconic show for African-Americans: a weekly showcase of R&B music and urban fashion, and one of the few outlets for black culture on American television at the time. The show introduced the "Soul Train line," with dancers strutting down a row for the cameras to the music of artists like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Prince. Cornelius himself hosted Soul Train from 1971 until 1993 -- with "his deep voice, his sharp suits, his aviator glasses and the stage presence of a grown-up music fan," as The New York Times wrote after his death -- and ended every show with his trademark sign-off of "Love, peace and soul." He continued to produce the show with other hosts until 2006; by then it had become one of the longest-running shows in American television history. Don Cornelius died in 2012 of what police said appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Extra credit:

Soul Train is sometimes compared to American Bandstand, a similar long-running show hosted by Dick Clark… Don Cornelius was married twice: to a childhood sweetheart, Delores Harrison, and later to Russian model Viktoria Chapman (from 2001 until their divorce in 2009). With Delores Harrison he had two sons, Anthony and Raymond.

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