Don Cornelius: The Soul Of Soul Train

We’ll remember the soul of Soul Train.

A screen capture of Don Cornelius on the show Soul Train (YouTube)

A screen capture of Don Cornelius on the show Soul Train (YouTube)

In October, 1971, something new hit the television screens of America.  Chicago host Don Cornelius stepped in front of live cameras and introduced “Soul Train”.  If it looked like “American Bandstand,” that was no accident.

But Soul Train put front and center a world Americans had never seen before on a regular national television show.  Black artists, black musicians, black dancers, black style, black moves.  An exuberant, explosive black pop culture.  This week, Don Cornelius died, at his own hand apparently.  And we’re looking back.

This hour, On Point: the soul of Soul Train.

-Tom Ashbrook



Renee Graham, music and pop culture critic.

Danyel Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Billboard Magazine.

From Tom’s Reading List

Rolling Stone “The death of Don Cornelius, the creator of the long-running television series Soul Train, has rattled fans of R&B, soul and dance music around the world. The news of Cornelius’ apparent suicide is especially troubling for musicians who either appeared on the show or were introduced to many of their favorite artists while watching it each week as kids.”

Time “A photographic look at the seminal dance program and its late creator.”

Tampa Bay Times “When I watched Soul Train host Don Cornelius back in the 1970s, I didn’t see a pro-black entrepreneur who would become the African-American Dick Clark.”

Video: Don Cornelius Greatest Hits

This videos shows some of Don Cornelius’s greatest moments from his hit show Soul Train.

Video: James Brown Plays Soul Train

Watch “Soul Brother Number One” James Brown play a set on Soul Train.

Video: Stevie Wonder On Soul Train 1971

Stevie Wonder plays “Superstition” on a classic episode of Soul Train.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Nov 27, 2015
Josh Baldonado, an administrative assistant at Brown & Brown Insurance, works at a treadmill desk in the firms offices in Carmel, Ind., Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. (AP)

The end of sitting at work. A new call to get up off our chairs. To stand and move! We’ll look at how that works.

Nov 27, 2015
The punk rock band Sleater-Kinney (from L: Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker) (Courtesy the Band)

Feminist punk-rockers, the band Sleater-Kinney, is with us. Reunited. Hotter than ever.

Nov 26, 2015
Jewel performs in the On Point Studio on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. (Liz Gillis / WBUR)

Singer-songwriter Jewel asked “who will save your soul”? Now she’s talking about saving her own. We’ll talk to Jewel.

Nov 26, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Fresh Ideas For Your Thanksgiving: Recipes
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015

Did our Thanksgiving 2016 episode make you hungry? Good news — we’ve got recipes right here.

More »
Karl Rove Still Won’t Get Involved In The 2016 G.O.P. Primary
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Karl Rove may say he’s not endorsing or getting involved in the 2016 G.O.P. presidential primary, but that won’t stop from offering advice on how to beat Republican front runner Donald Trump.

More »
Roger Cohen And Barry Posen On ISIS
Monday, Nov 23, 2015

A brief, but illustrative exchange between Barry Posen and Roger Cohen during our conversation on ISIS today.

More »