When I looked at “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius back in the ‘70s, I didn’t see a pro-black entrepreneur who would become the “African American” Dick Clark.
I saw my dad. And his entire generation.
- Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay Times
“‘Soul Train’ created an outlet for black artists that never would have been if it hadn’t been for Cornelius,” said Kenny Gamble, who with his partner, Leon Huff, created the Philly soul sound and wrote the theme song for the show. “It was a tremendous export from America to the world, that showed African-American life and the joy of music and dance, and it brought people together.”
News of Mr. Cornelius’s death prompted an outpouring of tributes from civil rights leaders, musicians, entrepreneurs, academics and writers. “He was able to provide the country a window into black youth culture and black music,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. “For young black teenagers like myself, it gave a sense of pride and a sense that the culture we loved could be shared and appreciated nationally.”
- James C. McKinley Jr. New York Times
The genius of it all was THIS was the first time that black people were proud to be called AFRICAN.
Psssh. Before 1971? — I mean on the real – ’til like the early 80s on some schoolyard insult game ish? If someone called you “african” that was the most insulting degrading lower than low, “I’m finna f**k you up” type of insult.
I know right? Why?
To control our mentality during the slave period we were taught we were the lowest of low.
To control us AFTER slavery during the Jim Crow era we were taught we were the lowest of low.
The first introduction to entertainment (of which we were allowed to participate) was minstrel entertainment an over exaggerated buffoon display of shame and ugliness that we STILL CARRY TO THIS DAY (minus the makeup) (hello hip-hop….but that is another piece altogether).
To say with a straight, dignified face that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL was the RISKIEST radical life-changing move that america has seen. and amazingly enough for one hour for one saturday out the week, if you were watching soul train….it became contagious. next thing you know you are actually believing you have some sort of worth.
- Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, from The Roots, on OKPlayer
The ’70s and ’80s were just the period during which the best soul music was created and the best records were done. Whenever I walk into a store or any kind of environment, these kinds of songs from that period still play and I wonder if it’s a “Soul Train” tape. Because during those two decades, we were on top of them all in one way or another, either presenting the guests or playing the records. We were just flat out in love with the music.
- Don Cornelius, as quoted in The Los Angeles Times
Cornelius’ reported suicide, alas, tells us something about the nature of American success. All the man’s equity, affluence and well-deserved public acclaim were not, in the end, of enough comfort to salve his private pain — a struggle with illness, a nasty divorce.
To the people who make up the community that Cornelius created, the man is nearly a saint. We can see it now: the double line of dancers forming just beyond the pearly gates, awaiting the ingress of soul’s earthly impresario.
- Dan Charnas, NPR