Friends and family gathered Thursday for a private memorial service for “Soul Train” creator and host Don Cornelius in Los Angeles.
The service was led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who arrived early and perused blowup photos of Cornelius that were positioned around the lobby of Liberty Hall at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills. Jackson also presided over a private cremation ceremony last week.
R&B music greeted celebrants, who received a program with a smiling image of Cornelius on the show and the message, “As always in parting we wish you … Love, Peace and Soul!!!” emblazed on the back cover.
A large photo of Cornelius in round-rimmed glasses was projected on the stage where more than a dozen floral arrangements and other photos of Cornelius were positioned.
Cornelius died Feb. 1 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Since then, tributes to him and the show he created have been held around the country.
“Soul Train” began in 1970, giving a never-before-seen platform to black music, fashion and culture on television. It was broadcast nationally from 1971 to 2006 and became one of television’s longest running syndicated shows.
Throughout the years, “Soul Train” brought the best R&B, soul and hip-hop acts to TV, showcasing the music of Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Barry White, and white artists as well, including Elton John and David Bowie.
Cornelius gave up hosting duties in 1993, but for 33 years he signed off each show in his distinctive baritone voice, “We wish you love, peace, and SOUL.”
Cornelius was born in September 1936 in Chicago, served as a Marine in Korea and worked various jobs before getting into broadcasting in the mid-1960s.
He was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but his greatest legacy was the impact of his show, which not only brought black culture, but also black advertisers to nationwide audiences. His show came long before there were any networks devoted to television programming for black audiences, or black actors in prominent roles on network shows — key cultural barriers that Cornelius helped break down.
In 2006, he spoke about how grateful he was to musicians who came on the show and made it a hit.
“As long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for `Soul Train,'” he said.