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Don Cornelius, Soul Train creator, RIP
February 1, 2012 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Over its amazing 35 year run, Soul Train provided American television viewers with an incredible panorama, a veritable cornucopia of black popular music, and of course, entertained everyone with their legendary line dance segments. The man who created and hosted the show from its beginnings up until 1993, Mr. Don Cornelius, was on Wednesday found dead in his home, an apparent suicide.
posted by flapjax at midnite (79 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
A couple of years ago there was a nice Chicago Reader article on Soul Train's early history in Chicago.
posted by hyperizer at 7:31 AM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by jquinby at 7:32 AM on February 1, 2012


One of my personal favourites -- Five Stairsteps and Cubie
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:34 AM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Hippest Trip in America
posted by timsteil at 7:34 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]



posted by ryanshepard at 7:36 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, man. Sad, sad news. Deep in the 70's, there was never a question where my tv was tuned on Saturday afternoon...Soul train. Good memories. Many thanks, Don!


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posted by Thorzdad at 7:36 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


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We watch reruns on Centric, and I'l always impressed when he talks to the bands. Nice, genial, even if they're an old-time star or one of the up-and-comers that didn't have much going for them at the time.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:37 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


First Epstein, now this.....spent many a Saturday afternoon watching Soul Train (It came on right after American Bandstand iirc....)


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posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:37 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh no. fuck you, time.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:37 AM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by robbyrobs at 7:38 AM on February 1, 2012


now would be the time to post all the greatest Don Cornelius clips, of course ...
posted by mrgrimm at 7:38 AM on February 1, 2012


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posted by tommasz at 7:41 AM on February 1, 2012


now would be the time to post all the greatest Don Cornelius clips, of course ...

There's quite a bit of Cornelius in many of the clips here in the FPP, and I assume folks will be posting more! There's a lotta Soul Train on the YouTubes.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:42 AM on February 1, 2012


Peace, love and soul, Don. Thanks for opening a larger world for this white boy from the burbs.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


i will remember Don Cornelius thus
posted by mrgrimm at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by jsavimbi at 7:44 AM on February 1, 2012


BounceTV runs Soul Train reruns weekdays at 6pm eastern.
posted by timsteil at 7:45 AM on February 1, 2012


Safe journey, sir.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:50 AM on February 1, 2012


Suicide? God, that's awful.

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posted by Edison Carter at 7:53 AM on February 1, 2012


Here's an interview with Don Cornelius from just a few months ago when he was in Chicago to mark the 40th anniversary of Soul Train with a free concert in Millennium Park (sponsored by Amtrak, of course -- another train enterprise celebrating a 40th anniversary). While he was in town, he also appeared at the Siskel Film Center accompanying the Chicago premiere of the documentary SOUL TRAIN: THE HIPPEST TRIP IN AMERICA, which you can watch on YouTube.
posted by orthicon halo at 7:54 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


A very sad end to a legend.

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posted by readery at 7:55 AM on February 1, 2012


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posted by Ironmouth at 8:03 AM on February 1, 2012


Here's an interview with Don Cornelius from just a few months ago ...

"Q: I found a video online of Marvin Gaye beating you one-on-one in basketball.

A: That was one of my worst decisions. I was sure I could beat him, you know?

Q: Do you think you could have taken him if the cameras weren't there?

A: No. Marvin had a basketball court a few feet from his house and he played every single day. I looked like an idiot out there, and then tried to blame it on Smokey (Robinson). We recruited Smokey to be the ref, but there wasn't much reffing to do because I missed every shot I took.


I only found a few seconds, but Cornelius does look horrible. Marvin, as well as a slim Smokey, looks like they can play.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Peace, love, and soul, Don. Rest easy.

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posted by jonp72 at 8:17 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


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Many Saturday afternoons as a kid spent watching Mr. Don Cornelius and the Soul-Train Dancers.

The world is a little less of a stone gas without him.
posted by three blind mice at 8:19 AM on February 1, 2012



posted by Fizz at 8:20 AM on February 1, 2012


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posted by marimeko at 8:23 AM on February 1, 2012


Pre-Internet it was pretty hard to be exposed to a lot of the world in Alexis, Illinois (population < 1000 then and shrinking). Cable TV, Soul Train, and Don Cornelius exposed me to a great part of it. It's not like I became the biggest R&B or soul fan but it gave me an appreciation, and like a lot of things, I watched it regularly because it showed a world that wasn't anything like the one I was in. (This wasn't necessarily something I was aware of at the time, but I have no doubt that it's true today.)

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posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:27 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I only know of Don Cornelius via Youtube and the Garry Shandling Show - Live Election Special, in which he makes a guest appearance (and, AFAIR, tells a joke about republicans).

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posted by marienbad at 8:28 AM on February 1, 2012


That's not the way I thought that post would end.

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posted by kinnakeet at 8:29 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


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Growing up without cable, I used to think I was getting away with something by getting to watch a show as great as "Soul Train."
posted by Infinity_8 at 8:33 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh. Oh, God, no....

In the '70s, Don Cornelius and Soul Train were living proof to my little white friends that racism was stupid, because how could you be racist to anyone who made music like that and danced like that?

Love, Peace, and Soul, Don.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:34 AM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I suspect for a number of people this was their first exposure to Soul Train.

I remember him fondly from my Saturday mornings as a child He will be missed.
posted by Fizz at 8:34 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by pointystick at 8:35 AM on February 1, 2012


:( ...
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:36 AM on February 1, 2012


Life was better before the War on Drugs. Ronald Reagan killed my America, I want the 1970s back.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:37 AM on February 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm gobsmacked. For all he accomplished, this wasn't the way to go.

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posted by ZeusHumms at 8:38 AM on February 1, 2012




That BLOWS.

I know how to dance, boogie, get down and drop it like it's hot because of Soul Train. I had a Soul Train line at my wedding!

Love, Pease and SOOOOOUUUUULLLLL!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:38 AM on February 1, 2012


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posted by trip and a half at 8:45 AM on February 1, 2012


Soul Train was my childhood gateway to awesome music and fashions, not to mention the best sign-off on TV:

"...and you can bet your last money, it's gonna be a stone gas, honey!"

The world is a little less funky today. :-( My thoughts are with his friends and family.
posted by dorkydancer at 8:52 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by lord_wolf at 8:55 AM on February 1, 2012


Life was better before the War on Drugs. Ronald Reagan killed my America, I want the 1970s back.

+100
posted by mrgrimm at 9:02 AM on February 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


We've been watching the reruns on Centric recently, too, and try to guess the year within the first few seconds based on the clothing worn.

What an amazing show - and Don Cornelius had one of the BEST announcing voices in media history.

RIP, Don, and thanks for bringing some amazing soul/funk/R&B/pop into living rooms across America.
posted by davidmsc at 9:12 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


If not for Don Cornelius' appearance in Tapeheads, I wouldn't know the true meaning of "production values." RIP.
posted by stannate at 9:15 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Along with The CBS Children's Film Festival, Soul Train reruns were the forefront of live-action Saturday Afternoon TV. ST was proof that adulthood could be complicated and fun.

I never expected Don Cornelius' passing to turn out like this.


posted by Smart Dalek at 9:16 AM on February 1, 2012


This dance compilation on the You Tube Soul Train channel is fantastic.
posted by mazola at 9:18 AM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Pops Minus likes to joke that the only person with rhythm on Soul Train was the animated Train in the opening; that said, between the ages of five and twelve, Don Cornelius was, to me, the apogee of unflappable smoothness, an un-perturbable presence on my screen among legions of terrible, dance-fad-obsessed dancers, uncomfortable lip-syncing, and technical kerfluffles. Don Cornelius always played it straight, and while you'd occasionally catch him taking the piss, it was with a humanity and respect other "Popular Music Accompanied by The Latest Dances Televised Show" hosts seemed to lack (I'm looking at you, snarkmaster Andy Gury), or possibly never had (Dick "Immortality Is My Business, And Business Is Good" Clark).

Now that I approach my forties, the larger discussion of who dies and-or will die, what pieces of my childhood have been trampled, repurposed, rebranded, who has elected to bear and raise children, largely leaves me cold. It's not that I don't care, I do, but gutting of my childhood began during my childhood, and I have taken to heart the lesson of ephemerality, nothing lasting.

But. This death, this death of a relative stranger, touches me, and the only reasonable explanation falls somewhere in the area of "Notable Adult", "I Always Thought He Was Cool", and "A Model Of Smoothness Under Pressure".

So, Love, Peace, Soul, and ♫, Mr. Don Cornelius. My your afterlife be filled with funky moves executed to the smoothest of grooves.
posted by Minus215Cee at 9:25 AM on February 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


I used to watch this all the time as a child. Can't believe he went out like that. Definitely an icon of the black community.
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posted by KillaSeal at 9:35 AM on February 1, 2012


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For all he did for me, improving the interplanetary funkswomanship of my white, white self.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 9:46 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I was a kid, Soul Train came on right after American Bandstand. I can feel the cognitive dissonance between the two shows even today. Thanks you to Don Cornelius and whoever was responsible for putting Soul Train on the air in the 70s.

Love, Peace and Soul.

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posted by Mittenz at 9:47 AM on February 1, 2012


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Sad to hear it was suicide.
posted by jiawen at 9:48 AM on February 1, 2012


Love, Peace, and Soul indeed.
posted by scody at 9:48 AM on February 1, 2012


?uestlove explaines the importance of Don Cornelius and Soul train.

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posted by Sailormom at 10:22 AM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by lester at 10:27 AM on February 1, 2012


Saturday morning in my house in the '70s:

1. Chores
2. "Soul Train"
3. Go outside for a little tag, skelly or double-dutch
4. "Kung-fu Theater"
5. "Creature Feature"

We'll miss you, Don!
posted by nubianinthedesert at 11:14 AM on February 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Soul Train was a must-see Saturday thang for a huge part of my life.

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This dance compilation on the You Tube Soul Train channel is fantastic.

Damn, there's a lot of thin people in that clip.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2012


I may be a fat fortyish boring-looking white lady, but I'm really really funky inside thanks to Soul Train. Because of that show I had the best bell bottoms in the Second Grade. As was said: Rest in peace, Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul.
posted by peagood at 11:35 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


RIP Mr. Cornelius.
posted by penduluum at 12:24 PM on February 1, 2012


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I always thought Don Cornelius was the epitome of understated style. Soul Train was mandatory watching on Saturday afternoons directly after the morning cartoons.
posted by myopicman at 12:34 PM on February 1, 2012


God Speed, Godfaddah Don, Don Cornelius, thanks for everything. I wish you peace.
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:13 PM on February 1, 2012


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And as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul.
posted by inturnaround at 1:17 PM on February 1, 2012


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posted by Joey Michaels at 1:17 PM on February 1, 2012


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Indeed. Seeing Bowie doing "Fame" on Soul Train was the second time I'd had my mind blown. (The first was learning my parents names are not "Mom" and "Dad".)

I suspect there will be many Soul Train lines in clubs across the country this weekend.

RIP
posted by black8 at 1:25 PM on February 1, 2012


I only found a few seconds, but Cornelius does look horrible. Marvin, as well as a slim Smokey, looks like they can play

Here's more, though still not the full game.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:29 PM on February 1, 2012


On a basic level, Don Cornelius was a really skilled broadcaster - he had a great voice and on-camera presence, and was able to pivot easily from formal, scripted stuff to casual-seeming chats with musicians. It's hard to imagine anyone else hosting "Soul Train," much less doing it better than he did.

He (and whoever else helped book artists on the show) also turned out to be a real musical tastemaker for a lot of people - black, white and brown. I hope he will be remembered not for the unfortunate circumstances of his death, but for the considerable enjoyment he brought to millions and millions of people over all those years.

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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 1:34 PM on February 1, 2012


Don Cornelius helped me find Parliament/p-funk when I was a kid. For that I am forever grateful. RIP.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:39 PM on February 1, 2012


I, too, have been loving the reruns on Centric. This is an awful tragedy, but we should remember all of the great things he did, and all of the great music he helped spread.

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posted by vibrotronica at 2:07 PM on February 1, 2012


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posted by cashman at 3:37 PM on February 1, 2012


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posted by hugandpint at 3:43 PM on February 1, 2012


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posted by LobsterMitten at 4:05 PM on February 1, 2012


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posted by jadepearl at 5:38 PM on February 1, 2012


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posted by disclaimer at 7:34 PM on February 1, 2012


Oh man, this was such disheartening news today. So sorry to hear Cornelius was depressed and chose suicide. Whoda thunk, with that radiantly sensual low voice of his, his juicy joie de vivre that Cornelius would have chosen this way out. Aww no.

From the fabulously naughty, black phallic train throbbing it's way up the tracks, the endlessly marvelous dancing, to the great music, I loved Soul Train! Those clothes they wore! The hairstyles! The moves! Don Cornelius' fancy suits, the high collared shirts he wore! The sheer audacious sexuality of it! The amazing, wonder of it!

It just plain hurts my heart to think that Don Conelius died this way. It's just not right. A train wreck of an end.

Not just the 70's, Soul Train rocked in the 80's too.

Learning now that he hitched with a Russian woman, the bitter divorce, spousal battery, how she'll get the life insurance money. Dang. That doesn't sound right. Not a good exit.

So glad all the cultural encyclopedia of YouTube Soul Train vids will be a better lasting memory.

Really, there isn't anything else to say but wish him love, peace and soul.
posted by nickyskye at 8:33 PM on February 1, 2012


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posted by tribalspice at 3:12 AM on February 2, 2012


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posted by IvoShandor at 4:39 AM on February 2, 2012


Alas.

:,(

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posted by droplet at 8:30 AM on February 2, 2012


Chicago paid tribute last night, on Milwaukee Ave.
posted by timsteil at 2:27 PM on February 2, 2012


Chicago paid tribute last night, on Milwaukee Ave.

Sigh... after all these years, white people STILL can't dance!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:46 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


NYT's: A Smooth Operator in the Name of Soul
posted by nickyskye at 8:34 PM on February 2, 2012


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