Don Cornelius’ “Soul Train” became the longest-running first-run nationally syndicated show in television history, bringing African American music and style to the world for 35 years. Cornelius started in the insurance business, then became a radio DJ and television news announcer and sportscaster.
Inspired by “American Bandstand,” he devised a similar program spotlighting black music and introduced it on the Chicago UHF station WCIU in 1970. It was syndicated in 1971, and Cornelius soon moved the production to Hollywood. Cornelius was the deep-voiced host, and in addition to major black artists the show also attracted such R&B-leaning rock performers as David Bowie and Robert Palmer.
Cornelius stopped hosting in 1993, and though “Soul Train” ceased production in 2006, its archives continue to circulate through YouTube, DVD sets and BET’s Centric channel.
Cornelius died Feb. 1, 2012, of a gunshot wound to head at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 75.