A New TV Series On Don Cornelius Will Show The Wild Trip Of His Soul Train
From 1971 to 1993, Don Cornelius hosted “the hippest trip in America” courtesy of Soul Train. The syndicated show was an institution not only for tuned-in audiences, but for many Black artists in R&B, Soul, Funk, and eventually, Rap music. Furthermore, Soul Train showed viewers of all races the talent, pride, and joy of Black music and dance. Don Cornelius was the creator, the producer, the host, and also the master of the show’s party-minded ceremony. He did so with charisma, authenticity, and plenty of conviction.
In February, BET is broadcasting the 10-episode American Soul series based on the life of Don Cornelius. Produced by Jesse Collins (The New Edition Story, The Bobby Brown Story), the trailer was shared by The Roots’ Questlove, and shows some of the more dramatic points on Don’s life—including a reference to his 2012 suicide. Don’s son, Tony, is also an executive producer.
Sinqua Walls will play the lead, following extensive roles on Power (“Shawn”) and Friday Night Lights (“Jamarcus Hall”). The cast of the series includes two acclaimed singers. Kelly Rowland will portray Gladys Knight and Kelly Price is set to play the real-life series regular Brianna Clarke.
Cornelius was a native of Chicago, Illinois. A veteran of the Korean War, he became a police officer for a brief time. However, broadcasting was his passion. He left the traditional workforce to take classes in the field, and landed at the Windy City WVON radio station. A year later, he moved into television—starting with news. Eventually, Soul Train was born, as a platform to fill the void of Black music on TV through a showcase. He soon relocated his show to Los Angeles, California, and into syndication. By the early part of the decade, Soul Train was in living rooms across America and beyond.
His show, remembered for its performances, fashions, and dance lines, became a staple of American culture. It allowed artists to perform their songs, making hits in a multitude of genres during a booming era of sound. The show also led to Don forming a record label (which later became SOLAR Records), an awards platform, and a “Black Is Beautiful” campaign.
American Soul will air in February.