Last labor day at Millenieum Park, Michelle Boone, the city's Cultural Director, had a celebration remembering the days of Soul Train. It was a remarkable success. Salute was paid to Don Cornelius, the creator of Soul Train. Little did we realize his end was near.
It was a Chicago party. Don died yesterday and instantly I remembered the party in the middle of the city that paid tribute to him. For the past two years I have tried to honor Cornelius at the NDIGO GALA. It didn't happen because Don said he didn't fly much any more.
The city turned out in great number, about 20,000, making the day memorable. Jerry Butler, The Impressions, The Emotions, Marshall and The Chi Lites were brilliant performaners. Tom Tom Washington lead the band. People came dressed in the days of Soul Train uniforms. Herb Kent was on as the steppers stepped under the silver bean. Everybody had fun. It was a hot day. A perfect one in Chicago.
It was a special night to celebrate Mr. Cornelius and his historic Soul Train. He started as a DJ at WVON. He saw a missing link. The music of Motown and Chitown were not being played on American Bandstand. He created Soul Train at WGN TV studios and it was an instant hit. The rhythm and blues musicians had a place to appear on TV. Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, The Impressions, Jerry Butler, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes,The Miracles, James Brown, Al Green, Stevie Wonder and many many more had a home. Their hits hit on Soul Train. We danced. We made up dances. We danced in the living room on Saturday mornings. Soul Train was a hit. Don was cool every week.
To look back, there it was: history in motion. Don apparently committed suicide and we might not know why he took his life. But we remember him as taking us on one of the hippest rides --- The Soul Train.