Don Cornelius died this morning from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Cornelius was the series creator as well as host, writer and producer of “Soul Train” from its inception in 1970 until 1993. Previously Cornelius was a radio sports and news reporter and disc jockey in Chicago, the city where “Soul Train” got its start. The show was originally sponsored by Sears and Roebuck. “Soul Train” brought Soul and R&B music to a national audience through national syndication, and had a profound effect on popular culture in mainstreaming the music, fashion and dance of African-American youth culture.
“Soul Train” was my first introduction to soul and R&B, and its impact on me personally was huge. I remember being in kindergarten and spending every episode practicing and perfecting my dance moves in front of the tv. The “Soul Train” signature dance line, dancing between two lines of people toward the camera, is far harder to do than it looks. Even as a little kid my sense of aesthetics and fashion were profoundly influenced by the show. “Soul Train” was far cooler than “American Bandstand,” and it’s said that Don Cornelius bristled at the comparison of the two shows.
Cornelius had Sun, Mercury and Venus in Libra and Moon in innovative Aquarius, needing to innovate and having the smooth, Libran balance to be its face. Mars in Virgo conjunct Juno and trine Uranus gave him the organized, meticulous and committed drive to innovate and the impetus to do so. With Mercury quincunx Taurus Uranus and sextile Jupiter in Sagittarius, he broadcast cool through a new medium and broadened its audience through syndication. With a Saturn Neptune opposition and a Venus Pluto square, he helped change the face of mainstream music, popularizing a deeper, sexier style than was normally seen on television at the time. He was a strong and innovative character who had a huge impact on culture and the way it developed. Rest in peace and soul, Don Cornelius.