Many were rocked when news hit about Don Cornelius’ passing, especially due to the manner of death. He was only seventy-five years old. To me, that’s like quitting a race when you’re almost at the finish line. But the issue here is not about how he died or the reasons that may surround it, it is the lack of press he received.
I’ll be honest, I get most of my news from AOL (and then I might tune in to channel 7 news), because that’s my primary email provider. When I first saw the news about Cornelius, I saw that his picture was on a side panel. As the hours passed, he stayed on the side. My first thought was, “Oh, it must’ve just happened, or it was from one source. It’ll probably make the headlines in a minute.” And did it? No. You know what did? A singer’s sister overdosed. I had to look her up to see who she was (and who her “famous” brother was) because she’s not even famous! How did Cornelius end up as a side story to this? Reports of her death circulated for days, while Cornelius’s post vanished from the side the next day.
Another recent loss that affected the Hip Hop community was the shocking death of Heavy D, another story that didn’t reach circulation on AOL. This was another side story. I had to dig to find that he did a radio interview that morning, his performance on the BET Hip Hop awards show was his first in fifteen years (which he was very nervous for), and he was recently in London performing a tribute to Michael Jackson.
The night of Cornelius’ passing, I did some research on him too; his life, family, achievements, everything. I know that he was the creator of Soul Train, but what else is his claim to fame?
- Cornelius started out in the insurance business in the 1950’s.
- He jumped into broadcasting in 1966 and began his career as a sub DJ, then a sports anchor. Soul Train originated as a local show on WCIU-TV in Chicago in the mid-1960s. Once it reached television, Cornelius was the host from 1971-1993, which widened exposure to black musicians, as well as created opportunities for talented dancers that would presage subsequent television dance programs. Soul Train premiered on August 17th, 1970 and was syndicated in 1971.
- He had a small number of film roles, most notably as record producer Moe Fuzz in 1988’s Tapeheads.In 1987,
- Cornelius started the Soul Train Music Awards and the Lady Soul Awards in 1995.
So the moral of the story is… people who have changed history and brought goodness (and entertainment) into people’s lives deserve a lot more than a brief mention of their death.
R.I.P. Don Cornelius R.I.P. Dwight “Heavy D” Myers