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Cause Magazine


Actually, the kids became the stars of the show. Many of the dancers were notable, and they wound up influencing and teach- ing everyone from Michael Jackson all the way down to anyone who's ever sashayed down a "Soul Train" line at a party. Michael was even taught much of his signa- ture "Moonwalk" by Jeffrey Daniels, one of the "Soul Train" dancers back in the day. One of the most unique things about the show was its style and flavor.


In


those days, everything on TV was homogenized and bland. But Don was smart enough to let the kids be themselves--often trying to outdo each other with outrageous moves, fashions and funky new styles. It was “must see TV,” a lifeline to what was really happening on the street back in those days before the Internet and the onset of 24/7 media pop culture.


Crossing all racial boundaries,


"Soul Train" would go on to become the longest-running nationally syndicated show in histo- ry, airing from 1971 through 2006. Cornelius held down the hosting duties for most of that run, before stepping away in 1993. He remained as the program's executive producer and expanded the brand into an annual awards show, “Soul Train Music Awards” and later on, the “Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards” and the “Soul Train Christmas Starfest.” Cornelius’ death prompted many to speak of the positive influence he and his show had on pop culture, music and the black community. "God bless him for the solid good and whole- some foundation he provided for young adults worldwide and the unity and brotherhood he singlehandedly brought about with his most memorable creation of `Soul Train,'" said Aretha Franklin, an early performer on the show. The Rev. Jesse Jackson told KNX-Los Angeles that Cornelius "was a transformer." Chairman and chief executive of Black Entertainment Television


Debra Lee cited Cornelius as a personal role model. She said she used to finish her chores early on Saturday mornings so she could check out the latest music, fashions and dance moves on the show. "He was such a pioneer in the black music space but also in the black business space," she said. "He created the show in a very hostile environment. He made it a success and he made it a destination for African-Americans and lovers of our culture all over the country and all over the world.” Don Cornelius was born in Chicago's South Side on September 27, 1936, and raised in the Bronzeville neighbor- hood. Following his graduation from DuSable High School in 1954, he joined the United States Marine Corps and served 18 months in Korea. He worked at various jobs following his stint in the military, including selling tires, automobiles, and insur- ance, and as an officer with the Chicago Police Department. According to one story, he gave a ticket to a local radio announc- er one day, and the man was so impressed with Don’s voice and manner, he suggested that he go into broadcasting. Soon Don quit his day job to take a three-month broadcasting course in 1966 despite being married with two sons and having only $400 in his bank account. Later that same year, he landed a job as a fill-in announcer, news reporter and disc jockey on Chicago radio station WVON. A couple of years later he switched to television and became a sports anchor.


Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, and his broadcasting work, Cornelius saw a need for shows directed at a black audience. He got the idea of a producing a local dance show aimed at black teenagers. He thought it would be


fairly inexpensive and easy to do, especially with all the music industry connections he had made as a radio DJ and announcer. He pitched it to the local TV station heads and they liked the idea.


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