Cornelius was a disc jockey and journalist who emceed a traveling concert series called "The Soul Train" before creating the TV show Soul Train as we know it in 1970. One of the first African-Americans to own a media empire, Cornelius served as the host, producer and writer for his flagship program, a showcase of R&B and dance music of the day. Soul Train's massive success helped popularize several generations of black American music, introducing James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Run-D.M.C. and countless others to worldwide audiences. He continued to host until 1993, ended the show in 2006, and sold the rights in 2008, with a Soul Train movie possibility discussed in a 2010 interview, along with Cornelius' personal and health problems.
"Soul Train" went on to become the longest-running syndicated television show of all time, a record which will only be broken if Entertainment Tonight is still around in 2016.