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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jody Watley. Celebrating Don Cornelius

Jody Watley and Don Cornelius, 1988
Don Cornelius represents an incredible and unparalleled legacy in television, music and dance that will live on forever. Don and Soul Train shined a bright and historic light for our culture.  A true visionary, icon, legend and pioneer in every sense; his impact on black pride and aspiration in youth like myself was immeasurable during the peak of Soul Train in the 70′s. Don created, built and opened a door of inspiration, hope and opportunity for street dancers and artists to walk through – especially me as my career has always been intertwined with the show because it’s where I got my start. What many don’t know is that my father and Don Cornelius knew each other as they were on the AM airwaves in Chicago at the same time when I was a baby; my father doing Gospel and Don Cornelius as a part-time news announcer.  I didn’t learn the connection until after I was a dancer on the show. In essence Don Cornelius was already in the fabric of my life before our paths would eventually line-up many years before his show gave me and all of my friends something to look forward to on Saturday and to talk about at school on Monday. We rocked our afro’s with pride and were presented in a positive light. I thank God for Don.  Millions of us lived for Soul Train helping to make it the longest syndicated music television show in history. Soul Train was a vehicle of exposure for countless artists in music when all other doors remained (and to a degree remain) closed. If you made it on Soul Train, you’d arrived.

Jody Watley on Soul Train.

I owe so much to Don and Soul Train. It was Don who hand-picked me for Shalamar when forming Soul Train Records and he remained supportive throughout my solo career.

Jody Watley on Soul Train.
Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel, Soul Train Scramble Board
Soul Train Records Original Shalamar: Jeffrey Daniel, Jody Watley, Gary Mumford 1977

Don Cornelius with Jody Watley, Soul Train Christmas Party, 1978

Don Cornelius, Jody Watley GRAMMY Museum, 40th Anniversary of Soul Train, 2010

Don Cornelius and Jody Watley, 2010, "Soul Train Time-Life DVD Taping"

My heart is truly broken to learn of Don’s death and passing. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family, friends and those like me who loved and appreciated him for all that he represented and achieved as the first African-American to create, produce, host and OWN his own show. Don Cornelius let us know that black is beautiful and sent us off with love, peace and soul.
In his departing, I’m wishing him the same.

Rest in Peace Don Cornelius.

The blog entry was updated to include information about The Soul Train Dance Studio, and Jody Watley as 'Robot' teacher to 'The Queen of Soul' Aretha Franklin.
Read the full post: HERE