The death of Soul Train creator Don Cornelius rattled the very core of soul and R&B music during which should have been a festive time for the African-American community as Black History Month kicked off. Cornelius’ pioneering television program Soul Train paved the way for a great deal of artists who have all achieved greater heights, owing a great debt to the platform provided. Yesterday, Cornelius’ life and achievements were celebrated in Hollywood by family, friends and music stars alike at a star-studded memorial service.
An exclusive article from VIBE magazine’s Tracy Ford offered outsiders a glimpse of the memorial service where some of the biggest names in music were in attendance. Smokey Robinson, Magic Johnson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder and George Duke all spoke lovingly of Cornelius. Don Jackson of Central City Productions read the obituary while Rev. Jackson read the eulogy. Pastor Donnie McClurkin presided over the memorial service, fresh from a trip to Nigeria.
“To this day, nothing like that exists,” said Jody Watley to VIBE at the service’s conclusion. “He opened the door for new artists, and that may have been your only television exposure. The show opened so many doors. I remember looking at the cameramen, the women on the staff. He employed people of color. Going on other shows you saw how different it was.”
Cornelius’ sons Tony and Robert were also in attendance and former’s daughter, Christina, moved the attendees to tears with a loving message for Cornelius, referring to him simply as, “My grandpa. My smooth-voiced loving grandpa.”
Author Ericka Blount Danois is penning an upcoming book focusing on Don Cornelius’ legacy in television. The title, Soul Train’s Mighty Ride, Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show, is slated for an August release.
Rest in peace to the great Don Cornelius.
Photo: Soul Train