Originally he sought out the field of journalism after seeing heroes rise and fall during the civil rights era. He saw another arena which was disturbingly free of the Black perspective — television. He dreamed up, produced, wrote and conceived a show called Soul Train — the "longest-running, first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history," with over 1,100 episodes produced from the show's 1965 Chicago debut through the 2005-06 season. This began a whole new avenue for Black culture to spread through a country that sometimes resisted it, funded by another Chicago staple in Black culture, Johnson Products Company (makers of Afro Sheen).
James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and many more names gained a large part of their audience and influence from getting broadcast into living rooms, speakeasies and barber shops under Cornelius' smooth baritone recommendation. His rhyme-filled DJ-influenced intros and commentary made the shimmying bodies of the show seem all the more cool, and he was the grand poobah of good times."We had a show that kids gravitated to," he said to the New York Times for a feature article.
Cornelius went on to create the Soul Train Music Awards (1987-2010) as well as becoming a kind of cult figure in Black pop culture, an arbiter of cool and composure, so much so that even Dr. Dre borrowed Soul Train stylings for his remix of "Fast Lane" with neo-soul singer Bilal, as well as being lauded on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and by rappers like The RZA and Ice Cube.
Don Cornelius was born in 1936, and he's still doing it today. As he so often said …
"… you can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!"