Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Final Stop on the Hippest Trip

Don Cornelius died today, Feb 1 2012. All signs point to a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Per our usual policy, we'll point you toward The AV Club's obituary.

Whatever led Cornelius to alleged suicide, he leaves a terrific legacy as the man who not only brought soul, funk and awesome good times into millions of living rooms across the United States via Soul Train, but as a skilled promoter of hip, positive images of young black America.

Soul Train presented a great party on the surface, one any kid with access to a television could join, at least vicariously. Soul Train also functioned as a stealth form of cultural ambassadorship. Cornelius helped break new acts on the show, famously ignored the color barrier by hosting white performers including David Bowie, and even gritted his teeth to embrace rap despite not being a fan.

Most importantly, Soul Train was an undeniable success on its own terms, a feat unlikely in our modern niche-marketed and overly studied demographic entertainment landscape.

If you haven't seen VH1's 90-minute documentary on Don Cornelius and the impact of Soul Train, you can watch it online here. It's very much worth your time.