I can't even say how sad I was today to hear that Don Cornelius died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in his Sherman Oaks home. As a kid growing up here in Tucson, the show was a glimpse in a world almost entirely foreign to me, giving me a new favorite song on a weekly basis. Seeing Chuck Mangione in 1981 wasn't quite as exciting as some of the episodes from the show's golden age in the 70's, but I don't know where else I would have heard groups like Shalamar, Ready For The World, The System and all the 80's R&B tracks that I still love. In recent years, the cable channel Centric has been showing repeats of classic episodes and it's just a wonderful glimpse in youth culture of that era, between the outfits, hairstyles and dance moves I couldn't replicate if I tried. I have no idea what was going on in Cornelius' head lately that he would feel the need to end his life, but mostly I'm just sorry he had to go through whatever pushed him to that edge. He was an actual legend, bringing great music into the living rooms of kids across America, and my childhood was far better for taking a weekly ride on the Soul Train.
Don Cornelius was 75.
Charles Harbutt, Departures and Arrivals continues through Sunday, Jan. 26. Visitors may examine unframed photographs chosen around… More