Don Cornelius, the man who founded and expanded the "hippest trip in America," SOUL TRAIN, committed suicide in February of this year, only days before another celebrity superstar,, was found dead in a hotel in Beverly Hills. At the time of his death, he was 75 years of age.
In the autopsy report obtained by TMZ.com, Cornelius is said to have called his son around 3 a.m. on February 1 and stated "I don't know how long I can take this." His son then stated that he drove to his father's home and upon entering he smelled an odor of smoke, then found his father seated in a chair with a pistol in his right hand. Emergency personnel was called to the home.
The autopsy report states that Cornelius was pronounced dead of a single gunshot wound to the head at 4:56 a.m. He had a history of depression due to chronic health problems. Though no one knows why, the autopsy report also shows that emergency room hospital personnel put brown paper bags on Cornelius' hands after he was pronounced dead.
Cornelius will always be remembered as the man who kicked down racial barriers in television programming for African Americans, beginning in October of 1971.
I remember I was about 14 years old when I first saw Soul Train, which we heard had already been on the air in the L.A. area for a couple of years prior to its first airing in Georgia.
I had already fallen in love with the Jackson Five at the age of 12, but the closest I had come to seeing them was on the cover of Right On! magazine and the covers of the many 45s and LPs I bought. Thanks to SOUL TRAIN and Don Cornelius, I saw my first 'live' (pre-recorded) performance of the "Brothers Jackson" bringing 'I Want You Back" to life.
It was the first time I saw the Soul Train Scramble Board, watched the Soul Train dancers line up and bop down the middle aisle with their own twists on the latest dances, and also learned to do some of the most popular dances my youthful crowd had ever known, like the "Funky Chicken," the "Rubber Band," the "Robot," and even the "Four Corners." There was nothing on earth better than watching Glodean James and the other Love Unlimited ladies doing the Four Corners. They were definitely, in Don's words, "getting that stuff tough enough."
Reign In Power, Brother Don. You are missed.
Here's a trivia question: "Who was the first white singer and performer to ever grace the Soul Train studio cameras?"