Chicago salutes Don Cornelius

February 6, 2012 6:20:25 AM PST
It is a weekend of remembrances for Chicago-raised Don Cornelius, the legendary host of Soul Train.

It's not every day you can get your hair styled and catch a dance show at the same time. But that's exactly what clients at the Toss Hair Salon on 13th Street were greeted with Saturday as employees dressed up in their Soul Train best to pay tribute to Cornelius.

At Rainbow Push Coalition headquarters, a Saturday morning forum was dedicated to him and his impact on African American culture.

"Black was beautiful and we were black and proud," said Melody Spann-Cooper, president of WVON. "He turned the lights on in a way that hadn't been seen."

Said Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown, "People would say white people can't dance. Well they really couldn't dance before Soul Train."

Later, kicking off Black History Month at the Chicago Public Library, a panel including Chi-Lites founding member Marshall Thompson shared their memories of Cornelius before he left for the bright lights of California

Herb Kent, radio personality with WVAZ-FM, joked about his standing in the community.

"At first I got all the ladies because I was well known," Kent said. "They didn't know him. But later on, boy did that change."

Record label consultant Maurice White praised Cornelius' vision.

" Ain't life funny?" White said. "Most of us go through life never knowing what we want to do. And he always knew it and pursued his vision and he's an icon."

The tributes extended to New York City, where dozens of people took to Times Square in an internet-organized flash mob. Dancers re-created one of the TV show's Soul Train lines, showing off their most outrageous moves. The party continued for about 45 minutes, until police broke it up.

Back in the Chicago area, radio station V103 is designating Sunday as "Don Cornelius Day." From 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., celebrity guests will join host Herb Kent to reflect on Cornelius' life and legacy.