Don Cornelius Funeral
February 19, 2012 by staff
Don Cornelius Funeral, Yesterday, for nearly three hours inside the echoing Hall of Liberty auditorium in Forest Lawn, Hollywood, Don Cornelius’ life was celebrated by celebrities, athletes, musicians, community activists, and everyday people-an eclectic mix reminiscent of the days on the “Soul Train” set.
“Soul Train” has been on the lips of fans since the tragic suicide of the Chicago-born soul titan. A flash mob danced with abandon in tribute, with high-kicks and splits, in a “Soul Train” line as smiling policemen looked on in New York’s Times Square three days after his death on February 1. People dug in the back of their closets and their attics, wistfully eyeing their psychedelic nylon bell bottoms, thinking maybe there’s a chance for one last round. Other tributes came pouring in including a 24-hour run of old episodes on the BET’s Centric channel.
Friends and family at the service intimated that much has been said about what Cornelius gave the world through his show, but not enough has been said about Don Cornelius the man — a man with a voice like a rumbling engine that could make reading the alphabet seem interesting and profound.
Friends, artists, and celebrities like George Duke, Barry White’s widow, Glodean White and family, Smokey Robinson, Clarence Avant, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, David Winfield, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Stevie Wonder, Jody Watley, and Cedric the Entertainer spoke about the lighter side of the smooth, seemingly reserved man. The obituary was read by Don Jackson, owner of Central City Productions, where he talked about how Cornelius single-handedly changed the face of the Nielsen ratings. The eulogy was given by his long-time friend Rev. Jesse Jackson and the service was led by Pastor Donnie McClurkin who had flown in from Nigeria, only to be heading to Whitney Houston’s funeral today.
Music played before the ceremony transporting the audience to the golden years of the show-from Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight & Pips, to Shalamar, Diana Ross, and Teddy Pendergrass. Hall of Famer and community activist David Winfield remembered watching the show as a child as he had to hold the antenna for the television, “You know how it was!” he joked. He remembered conversations he and Tony Cornelius had when the television show and awards shows were in danger of being pulled. His son suggested they make some cuts and Don’s response was-”‘You know how many people we employ? How many livelihoods that would affect? We’re gonna do it one way or another.’”
“Don didn’t just employ people, he was shaping careers,” said Eric Casem, a 22-year veteran of the show who worked as the dance coordinator.
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