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Posted at 12:57 PM ET, 02/03/2012

Marion Barry on Don Cornelius


Cornelius in 2006. (Damian Dovarganes - AP)
When “Soul Train” impresario Don Cornelius was found dead Wednesday, an apparent suicide at age 75, a call went out from the Post Style desk for local recollections of Cornelius. I called up Marion Barry, who was acquainted with Cornelius over the course of three decades dating back to Barry’s early days as mayor. The interview ended up on the cutting-room floor, but for the same of posterity, behold the mayor-for-life’s comments:

On the cultural significance of Cornelius:

“Don Cornelius and Soul Train, we grew up on that. He was one of the few African America people to compete with some of the white people, I can’t think of his name ... Dick Clark. It was a great inspiration. There were a lot of instances instances when he broke on the air a lot of singing groups that wouldn’t have gotten a chance.”

On Cornelius as a person:

“But as a person he was just an outstanding person. I knew him personally, whenever I would go to Los Angeles and there would be something going on.”

On Cornelius as witness to testimony on his own greatness:

“I remember sometime back, I’m not sure how long, maybe seven or eight years, he was putting on some show out there and I went out there. There were two ladies who said, ‘Hey Mayor Barry, how you doing?’ I said, ‘Hey, what’s happening?’ ‘You gave us our first summer job. .. He said, ‘That’s what Marion Barry is all about, helping young people.’”

On the impact of Soul Train:

“I’ll tell you what it was, it was not these dirty, nasty videos that they play out here. It was a wholesome family music venue. ... I’m trying to remember if Don had any hip-hop artists on. He may have had a few, those that were clean in their language. I support hip-hop. I just don’t like language, misogynistic kind of statements, calling women [witches] and [boors], I don’t like that.”

On his personal relationship to Soul Train:

“I didn’t watch it every Sunday, every week. .. I think there’s a program on now called the “Best of Soul Train” that comes on cable. I still watch it once in a while.”

On Cornelius’s sense of style:

“He had a very distinctive voice. He went from a big Afro, to a little Afro, at one time I think, he had the biggest Afro in the world. ... He was the trendsetter to some extent. And he wore a lot of leather; that set him apart — leather pants, that kind of thing. ... I’ve been too socialized to wear that kind of stuff.”

By  |  12:57 PM ET, 02/03/2012

Tags:  Don Cprnelius

 
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