Don Cornelius is coming home to a more dance friendly Chicago.
As Rahm Emanuel attempts to transform Chicago into a dance capital of the world, he should take note of one of it's greatest dance champions.
In the early 1970s, two Dons contributed indelible catchphrases to the American vernacular. The first was Corleone, with “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The other was Cornelius, who ended every episode of Soul Train with the sign-off, “as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”
Monday at 6:30 p.m. Chicago hosts its 40th Anniversary Soul Train Concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Artists scheduled to perform include Jerry Butler, The Impressions, The Chi-Lites and The Emotions.
Expect plenty of stepping.
Cornelius got his big break in Chicago. While working as a traffic cop, he pulled over WVON host Ed Cobb. As soon as Cobb heard Cornelius say, “Do you know why I’m stopping you?” he knew the cop was in the wrong profession. Cobb invited Cornelius to come down to the station, and hired him as an announcer. In 1970, Cornelius debuted Soul Train on WCIU, to showcase black musical acts. The next year, he moved the show to Los Angeles, and into national syndication.
In an era when Dean Martin and Andy Williams had the leading variety shows on TV, Soul Train put Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder on the air.
Cornelius became famous for his signature sign-off, “peace, love and soul.” But as the gap between African-American culture and mainstream culture narrowed, Soul Train lost its influence. Yo! MTV Raps and In Living Color put hip hop, funk and R&B on network TV. The pioneering Soul Train was obsolete, and finally went off the air in 2006.
Cornelius, a graduate of DuSable High School, is returning to Chicago for a weekend of events celebrating the 40th anniversary of his TV show, presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Here’s the schedule: