Just some thoughts and ideas going around in my head while trying to figure out where I am and where everyone else is going.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don Cornelius

You’ve got to be shitting me, Don Cornelius is dead? The legendary writer, producer and host of Soul Train has been found dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound? Well fuck me! Hmm…

Well I suppose this is where I should speak about all the good things that he brought to American television, black entertainment and world music. This is the part where I droop my shoulders and lift my head to the sky and relive and feel the warmth of childhood memories. I think of the joy of watching his show every Saturday morning, listening to the many artists who would perform. From black to white, from young to not that old, from R&B to pop, you were never disappointed by who was there. They gave their all as they lip-synched to their own hits wearing clothes so tight that sometimes you could tell the religion of the men and which of the women had had boob jobs or were in need of one. I remember watching week after week and finally recognizing many of the individual dancers who would be there and grading each one of women on how they danced or the men on how questionable their masculinity was. I remember being thrilled waiting and watching for the Soul Train Line where the dancers in pairs would wait to perform their 5 to 10 second bit and I would dream about what I would do if I was there. That’s what I should talk about, but I won’t because remember him as being a miserable cunt.

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, I just don’t remember when, but I remember seeing Don Cornelius at the MGM Hotel in Vegas at the Tyson Bruno fight. I was there with a bunch of community kids and a few adults as guests of the boxing promoter Don King. The boys were there happy to see people, celebrities that they had only seen on TV and were collecting autographs and snapping pictures of everyone. I saw a couple of the boys who were about 9 or 12, recognize Cornelius who was sitting down on one of those ottoman things the hotel had looking up sad and old speaking to someone. They ran over to him and excitedly asked to take a picture of him. He looked at them, brushed them aside like yesterday's lint and waved them off.


Evelyn, one of the adults in charge, walked over to them and apologized to the man and took the boys away with her. He didn’t even flinch and my disgust for him grew instantly. I walked away.

Well this hasn't actually been a tribute and someday I’ll have to see someone about those traits in me that make me have these visceral feelings, but until then all I have to say is, and I really do mean it, “…as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!” RIP Don Cornelius.


  1. Thanks for the insight. True colours are often overlooked when talking about the dead because I guess it's about respect or whatever.

    When I was a kid we didn't have enough tin foil on the bunny ears to get whatever network aired Soul Train, but I do vaguely remember the show. I think it was on at the same time Mom was watching "Donahue."

    I also have a hard time saying "Rest in Peace" to someone who puts a gun to their head.

    But that's just me.

  2. Huge cultural loss, not just on the Af-Am tip, but to the world of entertainment. What he did was historical, & due to his personal issues, spiritual & health issues, one wonders if he chose the first day of Black History Month to take his own life.

    All I know for sure is that I & millions of others got our musical history lessons & our weekly soul fixes from Mr. Don Cornelius.

    So sad that we'll not see his tall, cool, afro-topped, & most inspired like again.


  3. BTW: So many celebs fail to live up to our imagined reality or expectation of them. Yes, it can be hurtful, jarring, & change our impression of them. But the fact is: many can be great artists or provide us wonderful additions to the culture & still be miserable people beneath the skin.

    In other words, they can prove to be just as human or/inhumane as the rest of us. It doesn't necessarily diminish their gifts or their impact upon society. Just makes them complex & bold enough to disappoint us for being such starry-eyed dreamers.

    One Love.

  4. I too recall awaiting the Soul Train to arrive every Saturday morning on the local television station in my childhood home in Chicago.

    The production of Soul Train started in Chicago and would air on channel 26 years before moving to the major network WGN channel 9'

    I have to laugh out loud when thinking back on how so many young folks at the time including myself often wore those same tight fitting, bold colors, stach heeled shoes and Afro Sheen sprayed afros.

    A young man from my neighborhood was selected to go out to California to dance on Soul Train after the production relocated to LA.

    Don Cornelius had two sons or daughters that attended CVS High School with some of my childhood friends.

    I can remember one time when two of the dancers got the soul artist questionn incorrectly (mis-spelled), but was immediately corrected by staff.

    When I think of the dancers and dance routines I think of: Jody Whatley, Domita Jo Freeman and the light skinned brother.

    I had often heard that Mr. Cornelius was not a friendly man and had a bad attitude. There may have been a reason or two for his bad attitude. Money, lack of money, bad marriage,health issues.

    He certainly left a legacy and changed the game.

  5. Roger - Yes it is sad and tragic, but then I believe that for every death.

    Tyge - I don't think that I could be that tough to not feel a little sympathy for someone who was in so much pain that the only perceived relief that he thought he would be able to get would be through death. I can only hope that what he has gained in death was worth what he lost on life.

    One - I have no difficulty in separating the man from the legacy. What he did culturally and in the world of entertainment can never be taken away from him and he deserves our kudos. But I never gave that much thought to him before I saw him so there would have been very little chance of me being disappointed by him. My exception towards him has nothing to do with me since I was about 20 or 25 feet away from him and I was only an observer. My exception towards him is because regardless of whether he was a celebrity or not, he had no business in hurting children whose only crime was to look to him as an icon. That was what I found unforgivable.

    TGK - Yep!

    Chet - Without a doubt, Soul Train was a show that was meticulously staged to the hilt. The man found his formula and worked it to the benefit of all. When he stopped hosting the show was never the same again. And yes I also have no doubt that he was also in a lot of pain. Whether it was physical or mental I don't know but hopefully it's over now.


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