Reporting Pamela Jones
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Friends and family members got together Wednesday night for a love-filled goodbye to “Soul Train” creator and Chicago native Don Cornelius.
As CBS 2′s Pamela Jones reports, Cornelius’s friends and fans lifted their voices in soulful tribute to a man they say used a simple show to help change the lives and attitudes of a nation.
WVON Radio’s Herb Kent put it simply: “I love me some Don Cornelius”
Kent was just one on a list of Chicago celebrities gathered at the Museum of Broadcast Communications for a public memorial for Cornelius.
Entertainment mogul Don Jackson originally suggested Cornelius put the brakes on the Soul Train idea before it hit the tracks.
“I said at the time, ‘Soul Train? A show like that will never make it on the air,’” Jackson said. “I went my way and he went his way.”
Fifteen years later, the show’s success made Jackson roll back on those words.
He was sent to ask Cornelius to strike a deal that would put Soul Train on more stations across the country.
“I said, ‘Man I have to apologize. You have a great show.’ He said, ‘You damn right I got a great show.’”
Veteran broadcasters like Merri Dee shared how Cornelius helped mold careers in Chicago.
“We can take away the fact that we can have a dream and that that dream can come true,” Dee said.
Soul Train promoted a style and flair some at Wednesday night’s event couldn’t help but show off.
“It’s sad that it had to come to this occasion for us to celebrate like this, but it also recognized the fact that … one of our own made such an impact on all of our lives,” said Soul Train fan Troy Winston, who donned a zebra stripe suit and matching hat for the memorial.
Radio executive Marv Dyson was one of the last Chicagoans to talk to Cornelius. Dyson said Cornelius left him three messages just hours before he committed suicide.
Dyson borrowed some of Cornelius’ most famous words to pay tribute to his friend.
“’Love, peace, and soul’ do not begin to describe the man that was Don Cornelius,” Dyson said.
Dyson said Cornelius left him one message just before his death, saying he was going to go away for a while to a hospital. Dyson said one of the last things his friend did was to get his son free tickets to the Grammy Awards, so he was giving right up until the end.