Donnie Simpson, Jawn Murray, Don Jackson And Roland Martin Discuss The Legacy Of Don Cornelius (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

Donnie Simpson, Jawn Murray, Don Jackson And Roland Martin Discuss The Legacy Of Don Cornelius (VIDEO)

One of the saddest stories in the news this week is the untimely death of “Soul Train” host and creator Don Cornelius. What a shock it was to hear that a man who was loved by so many people … appeared to have taken his own life. With his smooth voice, he brought Black music and culture into America’s living rooms at a time when you couldn’t see it anywhere else. He introduced us to artists we only heard on Black radio. And who who could forget the famous “Soul Train” line that taught us to dance?

We’ll certainly miss Don Cornelius, but his legacy will continue to live on through those who knew and respected him and those faithful viewers who would stop whatever they were doing every Saturday, likely cleaning up the house, to take “the hippest trip in America.”

Don Jackson, founder and CEO of Central City Productions and former “Soul Train” producer; radio and TV personality Donnie Simpson; and entertainment journalist Jawn Murray joined Roland Martin on Washington Watch to to talk about the legacy of Don Cornelius.

MR. MARTIN: One of the saddest stories in the news this week is the untimely death of “Soul Train” host and creator Don Cornelius.  What a shock it was to hear that a man who was loved by so many people … appeared to have taken his own life.  With his smooth voice, he brought Black music and culture into America’s living rooms at a time when you couldn’t see it anywhere else.  He introduced us to artists we only heard on Black radio.  And who can f- — who could forget the famous “Soul Train” line that taught us to dance?

We’ll certainly miss Don Cornelius, but his legacy will continue to live on through those who knew and respected him and those faithful viewers who would stop whatever they were doing every Saturday, likely cleaning up the house, to take “the hippest trip in America.”

Joining us now from Indianapolis, Indiana, to talk about the legacy of Don Cornelius is Don Jackson, founder and CEO of Central City Productions and former “Soul Train” producer; radio and TV personality Donnie Simpson; and entertainment journalist Jawn Murray.

Everybody, welcome to the show.  Glad you’re here.

MR. DONNIE SIMPSON:  Well, thank you.

MR. MARTIN:  Certainly, sad news; but, Don, I want to start with you.  Don Cornelius – and when you got your Trumpet Award, when he presented you, you told the story that you didn’t think this show was going to be successful.

MR. DON JACKSON:  [Chuckles.]  Yeah.  You know, we were at WBON Radio back in the late sixties, and we were both frustrated and – and getting ready to leave.  And he said, “Man, come on.  Work with me on this show.”

And I said, “What’s the name of it?”

He said, “Soul Train.”

I said, “Man, a show like that will never make it!”

And I said – so, he went – [chuckles] – his way, and I went my way.  And then 15 years later, I had a joint venture with Tribune Broadcasting, and they said – they were syndicating my shows and said, “Do you think you could talk to that Don Cornelius fey-” – “fellow and we can – [chuckles] – syndicate his show?”

And I said, “Well, I know him, but do you” – “do we really want to do that?” – ’cause I was so embarrassed to give him a call.

So, I called him, and he said, “Do you remember what you told me when I wanted you to work with me – [chuckles] – on ‘Soul Train’?”  So, he said, “Yeah, you come on out here.”

And – and I came out, and he – he told me, you know, really, “Why do I need you?”  And I had the Tribune and all of their stations, and I showed him that his show at the time –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JACKSON:  — which had been on for about 15 years, was going into —

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JACKSON:  — the losing time periods and advertisers.  And we hooked up after that; but, yeah, that was the experien- — [chuckles] – first experience –

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

MR. JACKSON:  — I had –

MR. MARTIN:  Don, and you know – you know, Don was –

MR. JACKSON:  — which was –

MR. MARTIN:  — like, “Dang!  Man!  What was I thinking?”

[LAUGHTER.]

MR. MARTIN:  Donnie, talk –

MR. JACKSON:  That’s exactly right.  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — about just the impact of “Soul Train.”  And I alluded to it.  I mean I’m sorry.  If you’re over 40 years old, you knew either I got all of those chores done before nine – in some markets –

MR. DONNIE SIMPSON:  Yeah, sure.

MR. MARTIN:  — or I would get my behind whipped, or I would be upset ’cause I missed “Soul Train.”

MR. SIMPSON:  Yeah.  You didn’t miss “Soul Train.”  I mean Saturday morning in my house, that’s what we did, man – like every house, you know, in the country, man. You know, it was just can’t-miss TV.

It was – and it was so important, because before that – I remember as a kid, you know, running home, we all knew that the Temptations, or the Supremes, or the Four Tops – whoever – was going to be on “Mike Douglas” that day, ’cause it was so rare –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SIMPSON:  — that they ever got any of those opportunities, you know.  So, we would run home, make sure we were in front of the TV at four to watch that.

But, you know, when Don Cornelius and his mighty, mighty “Soul Train” came along, you know, you could do it every Saturday morning, man.  And that was just the – obviously, very important for –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SIMPSON:  — for us, for – a- — and for, you know, me, personally; because I feel like he opened the door for me and “Video Soul” – that –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SIMPSON:  — without him doing what he did, I may not have gotten a chance to do what I did.

But, you know, for entertainers, oh, my goodness.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, Jawn, also it was a cultural phenomen[on], because not only did you actually see Black artists, but you saw the clothes Black folks wore.  You saw the hairstyles.  You saw the dancing, and so you saw Black expression every week.

MR. JAWN MURRAY:  Yes, and – you know, and I’m way under 40 and –

[CHUCKLING.]

MR. MURRAY:  — still could appreciate “Soul Train,” ’cause I, too, wanted to get my chores done and watch the show.  It gave Black music a face.  I mean it was the show that first gave us Aretha Franklin and Al Green and Barry White, but for my generation, it was the first time I saw SWV and Tyrese and all these other artists.  And – and before Brittney Spears and all these pop stars were lip syncing, they were lip syncing on “Soul Train.”

MR. MARTIN:  [Laughs.]

[CHUCKLING.]

MR. MURRAY:  “Soul Train” set the precedent for lip syncing.

MR. MARTIN:  Hey – hey – hey – hey, Don, “Soul Train”, of course, spanned 35 years; and so I think a lot of people forget that they – they – they only think in terms of the bell bottoms and afros; but, again, that – a 35-year stretch is a long period of time that covered different musical eras.

MR. JACKSON:  Yeah, it – it – and – and only people think about the weekly; but, Roland, the “Soul Train Music Awards” started another trend as the first soul music awards show to hit television.  And that’s when, really, I was r- — pleased to work on helping launch that show with Tribune.  But that was really a – another phenomen[on].  You know, for so long, he had the weekly; but there was never a s- — a – a special music awards show, which he started.  And that really took “Soul Train,” the weekly, even to another level.

So, yeah, h- — it – it was just phenomenal, the precedent that he set; because after that, the Image Awards – NAACP –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. JACKSON:  — Image Awards came about.  BET awards came about.  But he had the first “Soul Train Music Awards” that hit national broadcast television.

MR. MARTIN:  Donnie, talk about that, but also – we talk about for African-Americans, but a whole lot of White kids were also checking out “Soul Train.”  And when you look at hip-hop. 80 percent of those who buy hip-hop are White kids as well.  Frankly, you know, you talk about Motown; but, really, the window into African-Americans – people got an opportunity to see it, and that began to impact so many other different cultures.

MR. SIMPSON:  Yeah.  Well, there’s no question about it.  I mean the – the – the … roots of the music [were] Black, but the blossoms were all kinds of colors – [chuckles] – you know?  Everybody – you know, it’s music that’s for everybody, and once they got exposed to it through “Soul Train,” you know, they loved it.  I- — it – it’s just like Motown –

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum.

MR. SIMPSON:  — you know?  I mean you’re talking about this Black happening in –

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah.

MR. SIMPSON:  — Detroit from the Black community in Detroit, but it is the music of a generation – no matter what color you are.

MR. MARTIN:  And then Jawn – real quick; about 20 seconds left – we also got Shalamar –

MR. MURRAY:  Shalamar, Joe[?] – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — as a result of –

MR. MURRAY:  — that’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — “Soul Train.”  They were –

MR. MURRAY:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — “Soul Train” dancers.

MR. MURRAY:  Howard Hewett.

MR. SIMPSON:  Absolutely.  [Chuckles.]

MR. MURRAY:  A- — and Don mentioned the “Soul Train Awards.”  It became so successful, it had its own spinoff, the “Lady of Soul Awards.”  So, talk about a[n] enterprise that just kept rebuilding and rebranding.

MR. MARTIN:  Well, I’ll tell you what, folks.  We’re out of time, but I – I’ll – I’ll say this.  What I also appreciate is that Don Cornelius owned this show, because we talk about people who are hosts –

MR. MURRAY:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — and [it’s] somebody else’s deal.  But being able to own the show is also important as well.

MR. SIMPSON:  Huge.

MR. MARTIN:  So, we certainly appreciate it.  Don Jackson, thank you so very much.  Donnie Simpson – I’ve got to get both of y’all on the golf –

MR. JACKSON:  My pleasure.

MR. MARTIN:  — course [and] take some of y’all[‘s] money.  Just let me know when y’all ready to get beat down.

MR. JACKSON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  I’ll – I’ll handle my business.

MR. SIMPSON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  And, Jawn Murray, we appreciate it.

MR. MURRAY:  Anytime.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Thanks a bunch.