Hundreds of friends and family members gathered yesterday to pay tribute to the one and only Don Cornelius, the man who forever changed black culture with his groundbreaking music television show, Soul Train.
Cornelius was honored during a three-hour memorial service, remembering the host with plenty of stories, laughter and music, including an incredible performance of “Love’s In Need of Love” by Stevie Wonder.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered a eulogy that centered on how Cornelius’ creation created a platform for black music and culture that hadn’t been seen on television until Soul Train debuted in 1970.
“Don, we say thanks for being conductor of the ‘Soul Train’ and laying the tracks. We thank you because we needed you so badly and you helped us so much.”
At several points during the service, photos of Cornelius on the show’s set were displayed for the gathering, which ended with clips of the popular host dancing and delivering his signature sign-off, “Love, Peace and Soul!!!”
Cornelius’ granddaughter Christina said that to the world, her grandfather was a visionary and trailblazer.
“He was all those things. But to me he was just grandpa. My smooth voiced, loving grandpa.”
Several speakers, including Cornelius’ son Tony, spoke of continuing Cornelius’ legacy.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the NBA hall of famer, recalled meeting Cornelius in the early 1980s after he started playing with the Los Angeles Lakers saying:
“Shoot, I come around the corner and I see that big ‘fro, I already knew who it was,” Johnson said as the crowd laughed, “but I was scared because I always wanted to meet him.”
On Thursday, Johnson said he was committed to helping keep the Soul Train name going.
“Tony, it’s our job to keep the legacy going. The brand that your father has created will last a lifetime.”
Cornelius was born in September 1936 in Chicago, served as a Marine in Korea and worked various jobs before getting into broadcasting in the mid-1960s.
On Feb. 1st Cornelius died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 75 years old.