WVON to air Don Cornelius service Wednesday

Fans, friends and colleagues of Don Cornelius will pay tribute to the legendary creator, producer and host of Soul Train at a public memorial service Wednesday at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 North State Street. Doors will open at 5:15pm, and the event will be broadcast live from 6 to 8pm on WVON-AM (1690), the Midway Broadcasting news/talk station.

Cornelius, a native of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, began his career in radio on the Chess Brothers’ original WVON before joining Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU-Channel 26, where he launched Soul Train in 1970. He died at 75 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound earlier this week at his Los Angeles home.

Speakers at the service are expected to include the Rev. Jesse Jackson, soul singer and Cook County Commissioner Jerry The Iceman Butler, Radio Hall of Famer Herb Kent, radio executives Marv Dyson and Melody Spann Cooper, producer Don Jackson, and colleagues Richard Steele and Jeanne Sparrow, among others.

Billed as a celebration of the life and career of Cornelius “and the Soul Train generation he inspired,” the service is being presented by WVON, WCIU/The U, and Clear Channel urban adult-contemporary WVAZ-FM (102.7).

In a related event, V103 has designated Sunday Don Cornelius Day, with Kent hosting a special edition of his show from noon to 7pm. Celebrity guests and listeners will reflect on the legacy of the Chicago visionary and legend.

“Without Don Cornelius and the Soul Train show, music wouldn’t be what it is today,” Kent said in a statement. “He gave R&B music a giant boost.”

Because of plans for the Cornelius memorial, the Museum of Broadcast Communications has postponed A Salute to Radio Hall of Famer Herb Kent, which had been scheduled for February 11.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)