The loss of icon Don Cornelius last week at beginning of Black History Month shook many in the music
and entertainment industry to the core. Brother Questlove revealed how critical Soul Train was in
his own growth as an artist, and elaborated that he keeps copies of the show on him at all times. The
Soul Train line is a cultural mandate at all black family functions. Even the Smithsonian recognized the
innovative show in the summer of 2011 by inducting set pieces into the museum’s collection. Soul Train
was important, loved, but most importantly, groundbreaking, and it’s what the game’s been missing.
Well, maybe the game hasn’t been missing Soul Train, per se; maybe it’s missing something like it — a
show or outlet that allows the artists of this generation the platform to share their work. It’s unrealistic
to expect that a new show or personality should mime Soul Train episode by episode. Instead, some
enterprising young soul should be inspired by the spirit of the show, and run with it. I’m sure when Don
Cornelius started he wasn’t trying to be like anyone else — he wanted to forge his own unique way. And
culturally we are yearning for more positive images of people of color in the entertainment industry
that’s as educational as it is inspiring.
How long will it take for someone to take this to the next level? I don’t doubt that there are people who
are independently doing dope things in music, or in fashion, or in advertising. But when will somebody
combine these and other elements to make an explosively innovative medium in the same vein as Soul
Train? Of course, people will commemorate Don Cornelius by re-watching shows or throwing parties in
honor of his life, but maybe our time is better spent carrying the torch that he lit.
Don Cornelius was a man that who sought out the freshest, flyest aspects of black music, fashion, and
dance of his time, bravely put a stake in the ground, and declared black culture relevant and worthy of
being seen nationally. He was also a person like any of us, with problems and issues that unfortunately
manifested itself in his untimely death. However, if we take anything from his life, we can learn from his
ingenuity, we can demand more from our music and from our entertainment, and we can continue on
with the legacy of soul that he so proudly displayed.