February 1, 2012, - 11:08 pm
As you probably know, Don Cornelius, host and producer of TV’s “Soul Train” for decades, died today of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I have to laugh as I read the tributes to Cornelius from the rappers and the rest of the hip-hop crowd. That’s because, while he was considered by many to be the father of “urban culture” and is credited with making it mainstream in America, Don Cornelius had mixed views on rap. In fact, he was one of the driving forces behind what became a ratings system for records and felt that even this did not go far enough. And, yes, he became a Republican. I know–it doesn’t fit with the Al Sharptons and other bandwagon-jumping shakedown artists and race merchants of the urban world.
And it’s a fact that Don Cornelius was the ultimate American capitalism success story. When he died, it was in a stately mansion. He was an entrepreneur who created, produced, and hosted a successful product. And he became very wealthy from it, without government subsidies or affirmative action preferences. If his success wasn’t the epitome of the free enterprise system, I don’t know what is. When I was a kid, and I saw that show come on in re-runs after I got home from school, I quickly turned the channel. Some of the dancing on that show was really ridiculous, not to mention, slutty and way-too-suggestive. Today, it would be tame, and that’s partially because he bears some responsibility for bringing this negative aspect forth to dominate American pop culture. But I wasn’t the target audience, and he gave a lot of terrific, talented Black artists, like Whitney Houston and “The Jackson Five,” great exposure which helped launch their careers.
I can’t remember when it was, but ultimately, at some point during the Clinton or George W. Bush administration, Don Cornelius publicly declared that he’d become a Republican. I can’t find it anywhere on the Net, but it happened. Perhaps, we can’t find it because the rapper crowd doesn’t want that narrative–that the Father of Modern Soul saw the light. But he did.
And more than thought, Don Cornelius called rap a form of “pandering,” even though “Soul Train’s” fare evolved into rap before Cornelius stopped hosting it. His opposition to violent rap is mentioned in the book, “Hip Hop America.” He didn’t like the way rap degraded women and attacked hard work and values. He especially spoke out against gangsta rap, which is basically the dominant form of it today. In his testimony before a Congressional hearing on February 11, 1994, Cornelius played both sides–he was against any censorship of rap and compared its pandering to that of politicians who support law and order. However, he also said this:
It goes without saying that anyone who sells
any form of entertainment which is either antisocial or illegal in
nature and cannot be indulged in except behind closed doors, is en-
gaged in what could be defined as pandering. This same standard
should also apply, regarding hard-core or gangsta rap. . . .
Rap music and all other recordings — I repeat, all other recordings — do need to be rated just as movies are. Records by any recording artists which are violently or sexually explicit or which promote illegal drug or firearm use or any other antisocial behavior should be clearly marked and identified as X-rated. The parental guidance sticker system presently being used in the recording industry is simply not enough.
He went on to recommend something stronger than the ratings system which was adopted by the Recording Industry Association of America. Sadly, that never happened.
And maybe all of that had something to do with why he became a Black Republican. Was he a “liberal Republican?” Probably, but at least he made the switch, and that’s a huge move for the father of “Soul Train.” I can’t find any records of political donations he made to anyone.
In any event, while he recommended little restraint against the rap industry, he saw it for what it was–not a civil rights movement of any sort, but something that was, in his own words, “anti-social.”
Don Cornelius, RIP.
Tags: Black entrepreneurs, Black Republicans, capitalism, Don Cornelius, Don Cornelius dead, free enterprise, Hip-Hop, Rap, Republican, RIP, Soul Train