When I found out yesterday that Don Cornelius had died I had one of those OH NO moments. The first thing I thought about was how traumatized I was as a kid by that damned soul train line!
Imagine being a black kid in a black family where you have absolutely no rhythm because you are a total geek?! I am here to dispel the myth that all black people can dance--and it was that damned soul train line that 'outted me!'
Back in the day, you couldn't have a family gathering without someone putting on some music and saying, 'Lets start a soul train line!' Then if you were like me you would try to find somewhere to hide (smile)...you look around there'd be two other kids hiding too. Haha.
But these are fond memories that I have of Soul Train and Don Cornelius with his deep baritone voice and that strange mole he had on his face. He was both cool, and a bit scary. But he was familiar--like family.
So it was with a heavy heart that I discovered that his death was due to an apparent suicide. Maybe I'm shocked because I want to think that a person so iconic is supposed to sit up on a pedestal and be untouched by the personal problems that the 'rest' of us deal with.
But so many times we, as a society, are proven wrong with that idealism, ie Kurt Cobain, Brad Delp from the group BOSTON (his suicide note said that he was a lonely heart), Charles Rocket from SNL (On a side note I watched an episode where he mouthed the words 'what the fuck' at the end of a sketch and was later fired. I always wondered if he committed suicide because of that. There is soap opera actor Nick Santino who, 2 days ago, committed suicide after feeling forced to euthanize his dog by his condo association. There is poet Sylvia Plath, Stuart Adamson from the group Big Country, wrestler Chris Benoit, the kid that played in The Neverending Story II Jonathan Brandis, Ian Curtis from the group Joy Division, Ernest Hemingway, Margaux Hemingway, Michael Hutchins (INXS--may have been accidental), Freddie Prinze (from the show Chico and the Man), Hunter Thompson wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, writer David Foster Wallace tried to wean himself off anti-depressants due to their side effect but it did not work, Virginia Wool and finally on my list is Wendy O. Williams. Wendy was in a punk group called the Plasmatics and was a 'shock performer'. She left a note that spoke very deeply of her own personal convictions on suicide;
"I don't believe that people should take their own lives without deep and thoughtful reflection over a considerable period of time. I do believe strongly, however, that the right to do so is one of the most fundamental rights that anyone in a free society should have. For me, much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm."Being unable to cope with depression is not limited to 'regular' people. Perhaps celebrities have it more difficult because of the pedestal that we often try to place them on. The pressures of their success might also contribute to it because if it was a past success, then trying to live up to it must be torture--and if it is a current success, then trying to find ways not to lose it could be all consuming.
Whatever the reasons, I try not to go to a place where I fault or blame someone for taking their lives because I haven't walked in their shoes. My heart just goes out to anyone that is in so much pain that the only way they know to stop that pain is to stop their lives.
Here is my tribute to Don Cornelius as he dances down his iconic soul train line...and he did it much better than I ever did. Can I hear a SOUUUUUUUUUUUL TRAIN!