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“He was the original social network,” she said. “Before we had internet or Facebook, we all gathered around that television every Saturday to see what people were listening to, what we were dancing to.

“Don Cornelius helped shape black culture at a time coming out of the Civil Rights era, when America had not been exposed to the social side of who we were,” she said.

But “Soul Train” didn’t start out big, and Butler recalled getting a call to come over and perform on the show on the day it was to make its inaugural syndicated broadcast.

“I think Gladys Knight and the Pips were originally scheduled to come and do it and they got jammed up and couldn’t come and I was the stand-in, so I went and did it,” he said.

Though he appreciated being called, Butler suggested that it was Cornelius who was the more grateful one.

“Well, you know, this is going to sound arrogant but at the time I did `Soul Train’ I meant more to the show than he meant to me. He was dealing with a South Side perspective and I was dealing with a nationwide perspective.”

But, he said, Cornelius’ career took off as the significance of the show grew and grew.

“Over time, he became the show to be on if you wanted to be anybody in this business,” said Butler.

Butler, who played with the likes of Otis Redding and was once a member of the Impressions, along with Curtis Mayfield, sang for Cornelius at the 40th anniversary show. Along with two original Impressions and the singer who replaced the late Mayfield, Butler performed his 1969 hit “Only The Strong Survive.”

Butler recalled Cornelius walking a little slower, but otherwise seeming to be in good health and in good spirits.