Visionary, Entrepreneur, Businessman

Many people will share comments in response to the death of Don Cornelius, the creator of the iconic television program Soul Train.  Three words that I believe describe Mr. Cornelius best are: Visionary; Entrepreneur, and Businessman.

 Mr. Cornelius was a Visionary.  He saw a need and envisioned a way to satisfy that need.  The late sixties and early seventies was a period of unprecedented social, economic, and political development in the United States.  Black culture was emerging, yet the mass media was intent on holding on to old stereotypes and caricatures of African-Americans.   Mr. Cornelius saw the opportunity to take Black culture to the masses and provide real images.  Soul Train was one of the first “reality shows” because it showed Black culture as it was, not as Hollywood writers deemed it to be.  The natural hair, the colorful fashion, the platform shoes, the cutting-edge dance moves, the music of the soul were all part of Black culture derived from African roots.  Mr. Cornelius saw the opportunity to display all of this to a national audience.

 Mr. Cornelius also was an Entrepreneur.  It was not enough to have the vision of Soul Train, but it was necessary to have the infrastructure to make it happen.  Mr. Cornelius had the ability to cultivate the finances and relationships that took the local dance show, originally based in Chicago, to the nationally syndicated show based out of Hollywood.  In doing so, the show become the showcase for major performers, both Black and White, and captivated a diverse national audience.  Mr. Cornelius figured out how to get it done, and he did it.  That’s what entrepreneurs do.

 Finally, Mr. Cornelius was an astute businessman.  Mr. Cornelius owned Soul Train.  He was the chief executive in charge.   He made both the creative and business decisions for the show.  He made sure that Soul Train grew even as the fluid music industry went from one genre to another.  Mr. Cornelius made sure that Soul Train would always be a player in the industry.  The growth and development of Soul Train required nurturing just like all businesses.  Mr. Cornelius nurtured.  He promoted.  He innovated.  He did what was required to keep Soul Train “the hippest trip in America”.  And he rode that train all the way to the bank.

 People will remember Don Cornelius for various things, but I believe that the development of a show called Soul Train was a remarkable achievement.  Understand that Soul Train was a syndicated television show.  That means none of the major networks aired it.  The fact that Soul Train ran for over thirty years, in hundreds of television markets, is a testament to the importance of Mr. Cornelius and the Soul Train brand.  We should recognize and appreciate the contributions of the Visionary, the Entrepreneur, and the Businessman that is Don Cornelius.



(c) 2012, The Video Factory