Don Cornelius: History, Timeline of a Legend’s Life

Don Cornelius: History, Timeline of a Legend's Life

Birth name: Donald Cortez Cornelius

Age: 75

Born: Sept. 27, 1936, in Chicago

Died: Feb. 1, 2012, in Sherman Oaks, Calif., outside Los Angeles

Cornelius was one of the earliest employees of the legendary black-owned WVON radio station in Chicago, where Cornelius got his start.

1971: Hosted “Soul Train,” a show that primarily featured R&B, soul and, later, hip-hop artists. It is billed by the Los Angeles Times as the “longest-running, first-run, nationally-syndicated program in television history.” (It will hold that distinction until 2016 when and if “Entertainment Tonight” completes its 35th season and, if not, by “Wheel of Fortune” in 2017 if it continues to air).

1977: Cornelius was also mentioned in the season two episode of “Saturday Night Live,” which aired on March 19, 1977, as part of the sketch “Samurai Hit Man.” In the sketch, Don Marsala (Dan Aykroyd) hires the Samurai to kill both Don Cornelius and Don Kirshner.

1987: Cornelius launched the “Soul Train Music Awards” to pay homage to the top performers and songs in R&B, soul, hip-hop and gospel.

1995: “Soul Train” launches the “Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards” as an ode to female R&B artists. The program was discontinued in 2006.

Early 1990s: Cornelius is mentioned by rapper Ice Cube in Scarface’s  song “Hand of the Dead Body.” He is also mentioned by RZA’s  song “Airwaves,” the Beastie Boys single song “Flute Loop” and De La Soul’s song “Pass The Plugs.”

Early 1990s: Keenan Ivory Wayans spoofs Cornelius in an episode of “In Living Color” with a senior-citizen version of “Soul Train” called “Old Train.” Also, Wayans spoofed the “Soul Train” line in the classic urban movie, I’m Gonna Get You Sucka.

1993: Cornelius retires from hosting “Soul Train.”

1994: Appeared in “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” episode in which Will Smith is a big fan of Cornelius and owns a Don Cornelius doll, which he claims is an action figure; Cornelius also made a cameo appearance on the show on a fictional 25th Anniversary show of “Soul Train.”

1997-2006: “Soul Train” was hosted by entertainment personalities Mystro Clark (1997-1999), Shemar Moore (1999-2003) and Dorian Gregory (2003-2006). At its conclusion, it had produced over 1,100 episodes.

1998: “Soul Train” premieres the “Soul Train Christmas Starfest.” The show last aired in 2006.

1998: Cornelius played record producer Moe Fuzz in 1988’s Tapeheads.

2008: The “Soul Train Awards” was cancelled due to a strike by the Writers Guild of America. Cornelius also announced that a motion picture about “Soul Train” was in the works.

2008: Sold “Soul Train” to MadVision Entertainment and they revived the “Soul Train Awards.”

2008: Cornelius was arrested in a Los Angeles home on Mulholland Drive on felony domestic violence charges but released on bail. He eventually entered a no contest plea and was given 36 months probation.

2009: Appeared on the BET Awards to present The O’Jays with the BET Lifetime Achievement Award.

2012, Feb. 1: Don Cornelius passes away.

–terry shropshire

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