Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Don Cornelius, Thank You My Soul Train Brotha…

February 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Don Cornelius was my uncle. No, he wasn’t my grandmother’s brother or some dude that grew up with my grandfather, but he was a member of my family. He came to my home every week, bearing gifts, dropping jewels and genuinely seemed to take an interest in our condition. Yeah, it was through a television screen, but he was as much a part of my family as Uncle Martin Luther King Jr.

I nearly swerved off of the rode when I heard that Don Cornelius was not only found dead, but apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. I immediately thought of what sort of pain he was in to have taken his own life at such an advanced stage in life, what private hell tormented him so to commit  such a public act? My heart dropped, because he’s family, yours and mine and that’s how you feel when someone who’s influenced your life in such a unique passes.
Then, I remembered “Soul Train”, the American institution that for over 40 years has bridged gaps between races, generations, genres, coasts and countries, the reason Don Cornelius became my uncle. Don Cornelius is one of the most important people of the 20th century; “Soul Train” was born in a post-Civil Rights era and gave our “cool” a platform. Sure, the Motown was “The Sound of Young America”, but “Soul Train” was the face of Black America. That one hour a week put the hottest acts in Black music, the best dance steps and freshest threads on display for all to see, for Black America to watch and take pride in and White America to marvel at and drop their guard in the process.
During the 1970’s as heroin ravaged America’s ghettos, “Soul Train” became a temporary escape from the harsh reality of those staring at the pavement with dreams in their eyes and something seemingly tangible for those with the talent to possibly transport them to that stage a few feet above the luckiest kids in America…the Soul Train Gang. 
I’m still holding on to the hope of going down the “Soul Train Line” one day.
Don Cornelius is an American icon whose business mind and model should be studied closely. He was a visionary that identified that people who looked likehim weren’t being represented on television and set about doing something about it. Don Cornelius owned “Soul Train”. I’ll repeat that, Don Cornelius ownedSoul Train” and by extension owned a small portion of Black American culture that he handled with care and didn’t allow anyone to trifle with. He famously went head-to-head with Dick Clark over Clark’s rip-off show “Soul Unlimited” and won. I can’t believe the battle was over the show being so similar, but more because the show wasn’t authentic and born with the intention to profit off of the culture. I can only wish that Bob Johnson had an ounce of the cultural integrity Don Cornelius had and that Debra Lee had a sliver of that, because BET has mishandled the most precious cargo since that ride across the Atlantic and repeatedly fail to project the images that Soul Train delicately delivered to America on a weekly basis.
Don Cornelius has dealt with multiple illnesses and was barely on the other side of a nasty divorce when his life came to an end. He stepped away from “Soul Train” in 1993 and first-run episodes of the show stopped running in 2006, but “Soul Train” holds nearly 40 years of our culture in a time capsule for generations to see and admire. His final farewell should not overshadow the one he left my house with weekly, “Love, peace and sooooooooooouuuuuuuuuullllllllllllllllllll”! Sad that he couldn’t seem to find the love and peace his soul needed to live out his life…goodbye Don Cornelius and thank you.
Staff Writer; Al-Lateef Farmer
More of his work can be found over at: The World According to Teef
Also feel free to connect via Twitter; http://twitter.com/wrldacrdng2Teef


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