Soul Train Host Don Cornelius Dies at 75

by Belle Waring on February 2, 2012

Don Cornelius, who had a voice so mellow and soulful you’d come away from an interview with him and Isaac Hayes thinking “that Cornelius guy sounded pretty chilled out,” killed himself yesterday at 75. (Is that sad? I guess it depends why he did it. A long life, well-lived, and then you end it on your own terms–that doesn’t seem like a failure or a tragedy necessarily, though I would extend my condolences to his family.) In any case, he was the originator and host of one of the coolest TV shows of all time: Soul Train. When I was a kid, and wore an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time, there were pretty much no good shows on TV. But as a teen I could watch Moonlighting! Yeah, um. OK, there was Voltron, and The “A” Team etc., don’t hassle me. Anyway, Soul Train had incredible music, incredible dancing, and truly, the pinnacle-of-outrageawsome clothes. That foot-wide bow tie? For real? I found the whole thing mesmerizing but hadn’t thought much about it in a long time until I read the obituaries and saw that iconic Soul Train chugging along the hills. This following video shows you some great dancing and reinforces the point Amanda Marcotte made recently, that Saturday Night Fever was based on made-up nonsense and mostly people danced to disco like they danced to house music or rap or whatever: idiosyncratic moves and general rocking the beat. Now, maybe we would put this particular song in the Rare Groove box instead of the Disco box, but that’s just evidence of the extent to which they blended together, and, in the form of samples, formed the smooth undercurrent of (especially) west-coast hip-hop. All those slinky keyboards and horns? You heard it on the Soul Train before you heard it in The Chronic.

The Soul Train Youtube channel is generally amazing, and I am so buying a boxset now. The sound quality on this one isn’t as good, but a)it’s Marvin Gaye singing Distant Lover b) the look on the woman’s face at 2.02 when he comes down to sing into the crowd is truly beautiful. I know what you’re saying. “Belle Waring, I am a busy person and even though I am skiving off work I do not have 5 minutes to spare listening to one of the greatest singers of all time singing a beautiful sad song.” Well OK, Ms./Mr. Thing, you can listen to it open in another tab while you read a blog post write your journal article. Or you could watch Marvin Gaye in a knitted hat, charming the pants off of every person so inclined as to have their pants charmed off by a dude, and frankly, probably no small number who didn’t think they were in the “a dude can charm my pants off” crowd. Wishing you peace, love, and soul.