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Tribute: Don Cornelius

posted by Nell Minow

A sad farewell to Don Cornelius, television pioneer and the host of the popular music and dance series, “Soul Train” for two decades.  There were very few opportunities for audiences to see African-American culture in its own context when “Soul Train” first came on the air in 1980.  USA Today’s obituary quoted from an interview with Cornelius on the 40th anniversary of the show.

“Back then, there was no targeted television and I just had the sense that television shouldn’t be that way,” Cornelius told USA TODAY in a rare interview in 2010, when the show’s 40th anniversary was celebrated with aVH1 documentary. “The primary mission of the show was to provide TV exposure for people who would not get it otherwise. People who didn’t get invited to TheMike Douglas Show, or (Johnny) Carson. There was no ethnic television, just general-market television, which meant mostly white people.”

He presented stars like the Jackson 5, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, David Bowie, and Marvin Gaye.  He  influenced and inspired programs from “In Living Color” to “The Cosby Show” as well as the networks MTV and BET.  We appreciate your contribution, Mr. Cornelius, and, in the words of your weekly sign-off, we wish you peace, love, and soul.

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