Legendary TV producer and longtime Soul Train host Don Cornelius died in his Los Angeles home Feb. 1, in an apparent suicide. Cornelius — who had reportedly been battling dementia — was 75. He launched the syndicated Soul Train in 1971, and the show — with its small army of dancers and guests like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, and LL Cool J — brought R&B, funk, and later hip-hop to the masses, and taught the nation how to boogie in the pre-MTV era.
Cornelius, who also founded the Soul Train Awards in 1987, leaves a legacy as both an influential entertainer and an entrepreneur. ”[He] was a pioneer, an innovator, and a trailblazer,” Earvin ”Magic” Johnson, basketball legend and Soul Train Holdings chairman, said in a statement. ”He was the first African-American to create, produce, host, and more importantly, own his own television show.” In a fitting tribute, nearly 100 performers descended on New York City’s Times Square Feb. 4 to re-create Soul Train’s signature dance line. It was the perfect farewell to a true TV icon: a flash mob fueled by funky grooves and fresh memories.