Remembering Don Cornelius, TV's 'Great Unifier'

The venerable dance show “Soul Train” was never just about the music.

The series debuted at a contentious time in our nation’s history, and audiences of all colors could watch – and groove to – the sounds being spun by host Don Cornelius.

Don Cornelius Soul Train

The “Soul Train” impresario may have passed this week at 75, but his musical and cultural legacy will endure, says Kansas City Star columnist Jenee Osterheldt:

The show first aired in 1971, on the heels of the civil rights movement, and it proved to be a great unifier. It served as a platform for black artists like Al Green and Johnnie Taylor, but it didn’t take long for the likes of Elton John and David Bowie to ride the train too. To me, that’s what makes it so important.

On “Soul Train,” you could tune in and see people of all colors and ethnicities singing and dancing together. What fan doesn’t remember Cheryl Song, the long-haired Asian dancer with moves to mimic? And Rosie Perez? She’s arguably one of the best dancers of the past few decades….

On that show, I didn’t just see a diverse party. I saw people who looked like me, people who looked like my mom and people who looked like my dad. And the three of us? We couldn’t look more different. But that show proved we were all still the same, and our differences were good.


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