Soul Train Awards ‘20: 9 Of Don Cornelius’ Best Quotes

The show’s visionary regularly dropped pearls of wisdom.

Soul Train’s Don Cornelius was known for his disco-ed out style and mellow-yet-cool demeanor, making him the calm force that kept the program together in its most intense and energetic moments. But another thing he was known for was his amazing quotes. Cornelius gave thoughtful commentary on everything from music, to success, and even important reflections of his past.

Ahead of this year’s Soul Train Awards that kick off on Nov 29, BET has recapped nine of Don Cornelius’ most important quotes.

  • “I am just convinced that people want to see people on TV who are more like themselves.”

    This quote captures the essence of what made Soul Train such a captivating show for the Black community. Cornelius brought on regular people, in regular clothes, to have a good time by dancing until they couldn’t anymore. During the 1970s and 1980s, it set a standard for Black television that was unforeseen at the time.

  • “My father worked real hard. I admired him. My father taught me you needed to work with your brain and not your back. I’ve made that a passion.”

    Soul Train ran for 35 years and even after he stopped hosting it in 1993, Cornelius remained as the show’s main visionary. His brain power has been the essence of so many cultural moments over a three-decade span.

  • “I felt that it was my mission to see to it that Black talent had an opportunity to get national television exposure.”

    What Cornelius did with Soul Train was give a platform to Black talent and launched the careers of some of the most popular singers in the 1980s. He succeeded in his mission of giving Black talent the exposure that they needed.

  • “Love, peace, and soul.”

    Cornelius’ famous quote that comes directly from each episode of Soul Train will forever remain as a hallmark of the show and the experience that he curated. When you hear those three words together, it automatically takes you back to the time — whether you were alive then or not.

  • “When you come up with a good idea, you don’t have to do a whole lot. The idea does it for you.”

    Soul Train could be summed up in six words: a dancing platform for Black talent. Its simplicity perhaps played a huge part in its continued success over its three-decade plus run that saw a couple of spin-offs in hopes of replicating its success.

  • “It’s always a pleasure to find something that matters.”

    This general quote attributed to him describes the essence of discovering something bigger than yourself — a purpose, if you will. When Cornelius created the show in 1970, he was a journalist prior, at WCIU-TV in Chicago, who also moonlighted as a DJ for a traveling series of concerts with local talent. Once his news station took interest in his workings and made it into the Soul Train that we know and love, he realized what mattered: making sure that black talent could utilize this spotlight.

  • “I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for Soul Train.”

    One major factor of Soul Train’s success was the outstanding level of musical talent that came through the show. Artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin, The Gap Band, Doug E. Fresh, Kirk Franklin, Jamie Foxx, and more all graced the stage with performances of popular songs that sealed their respective time periods. It’s not hard to imagine that if Soul Train existed today, it would continue a similar pattern. There would always be a reason for Soul Train as long as black music exists — especially as popular as black music is in 2020.

  • “Soul music as we’ve always known, it hasn’t changed. There are different players now with different attitudes.”

    Sure, the beats are different and the subject matter has potentially changed, but soul music is still the same, spiritually. Cornelius was trying to explain the elasticity of Black music to retain its values without being weathered by the storm of time.

  • “One motivation for the Soul Train Awards was the grumbling that all of us in the industry have heard about the way Black music tends to be viewed as a secondary phenomenon by the other awards shows.”

    The first Soul Train Awards were in 1987 and its success has led to it becoming a near-yearly experience for Black culture. It’s amazing to see that one of his biggest wishes has created a tentpole award ceremony that exists within the music industry.

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