Before Terrance J & Rocqsi, Free & AJ, Donnie & Sherri, Carson Daly, and just about any other variation of televised music television there was Don Cornelius. Before we had the dancers in music videos, and flashy DVD concert series’ and reality stages…there was a Soul Train line. Beyond the catchy tag lines and deep baritone cool, Don Cornelius was an innovator. He is almost single handedly responsible for bringing Black music to television. Every Saturday morning, when the Saturday cartoons went off and my parents would get us ready for the day out, I would be transfixed on that animated train dancing across the screen and waiting to hear Don majestically introduce a Kashif, a blossoming Janet Jackson, or a duet between Melba Moore and Janet Jackson. He created a following in music through not only what people heard, but rather by what they saw. The frenetic dances and jamming music, a beautiful stage offering set forth with Don as a narrator… Now of course this all started before my time, but it was these moments that defined what music was in the 80’s and very much defined what is missing in music now.
We lost the Don Cornelius earlier this week in what was reported to be a violent suicide this week. I don’t like to discuss the parameters around the deaths of our heroes, especially not when it comes to suicides. People seem to be aware of depression and the mental illnesses that lead people down that road to take their lives. Having lost family members to the same disease, it hurts losing Don this way. A person that shared such a gift with the world surely deserved a more ceremonious exit. I like to think that God hears the cries of everyone…including those that feeling as if there is no other way out. A sad and sudden end to a legacy that is sure to be carried on through syndicated TV and also through the artists’ music that he platformed every week on his show. There are few black weddings, house parties, jook joints, and even regular clubs that don’t have Soul Train lines. Here is to you Don…Music will not be the same without you… Love, Peace, and Soul.