Soul Train Sadness

Thursday February 2nd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

“The hippest trip in America…sixty non stop minutes across the tracks of your mind.” I can still hear the silky smooth announcer’s voice on my television letting me know ‘Soul Train’ was about to chug through Honkyville and show me what rhythm was all about.

And I loved it. I loved it all. The music. The interviews. The host. I remember watching it frequently growing up in Milwaukee, but most of my family and friends thought I had a few screws loose. They were right, but I did enjoy Soul Train. I still can’t figure out why.

My grandparents who raised me liked polka music and maybe a little old school country when it still had ’and Western’ attached to it and was about dead dogs and divorces. I had to suffer through ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ AND ‘Hee Haw’, why couldn’t they let me have one measly little hour a week to see if I could solve the Soul Train Scramble Board?

As I got older, my friends weren’t any help either. They all liked Led Zeppelin or KISS, but that wasn’t my thing either. KISS especially. I loved their theatrical presentation, but their music flat out rots. I wanted to get into them like my friends did, but I just couldn’t.

For whatever reason, I was born with the soul and funk gene. The first time I saw James Brown on TV, I knew what I liked. Sly Stone too. THAT was music. George Clinton and the whole outer space P-Funk experience were still a ways off yet. Funk is in my D.N.A.

I was saddened to hear of Don Cornelius’s passing today, legendary host and creator of the Soul Train show. His gargantuan afro and ballsy baritone were an unmistakable image that has etched itself into my permanent memory. He was a true icon, a legitimate legend. According to his biography, he built his empire from the ground up. He lived the dream.

I was even sadder to hear he apparently committed suicide. Here’s a guy who really had what I and millions of others consider major success for several decades, but he still felt a need to end his life by his own hand. I don’t know the whole story, but I still find it tragic. I’ve been at the suicidal point of pivot myself, but I was never an iconic television mogul.

I guess I just assume successful people who are in high profile positions like athletes or entertainers are automatically guaranteed a life of ‘happily ever after’. Maybe that’s what they assume too, and when it doesn’t play out like that they’re ultimately disappointed.

I read where Don Cornelius was going through a pretty ugly divorce, and also had some unspecified health issues he was dealing with. Millionaire or not, neither of those two are much fun. I’m sorry it all pushed him over the edge, and I hope he’s in a better place now.

None of this concerns me personally, but I couldn’t help thinking about it all day. I have no insight at all about his personal life. Was he kind, generous or charitable? That’s about all that really matters now. I hope he was, but I have no idea. I do know that the more I’ve lived, the more I’m seeing that life is all about giving. This makes me want to do it more.


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