Black Music Impressario Don Cornelius, His Brain Surgery And Suspected Suicide


Posted on 3rd February 2012 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Don Cornelius was a successful African-Amercian entrepreneur who made his fortune by bringing undiluted black music to mainstream America in a hit show, “Soul Train.” The era was the 1970s, and Cornelius was the black Dick Clark of soul music and R&B.

It’s a shame that his story didn’t have a happy ending. And perhaps  it didn’t have a happy ending because of the brain surgery he once underwent.     

Cornelius, 75, was found dead in his California home Wednesday, an apparent suicide. He died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Cornelius had fallen into some difficult times, a downward spiral. His career faltered when he couldn’t contain his disdain for rap music and hip-hop.

And according to several press reports, he underwent brain surgery that had a dramatic, and apparently negative, impact on him. It wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to consider it a factor in his ultimate decision to take his own life.

Cornelius had his brain surgery in the 1980s, “and was quoted in newspapers at the time as saying he didn’t feel quite the same after,” according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Star-Ledger of Newark’s account of Cornelius’s experience also portrayed that brain surgery as a life-changer for the former broadcaster.   

“Cornelius suffered severe personal setbacks, too,” Star-Ledger music critic Tris McCall wrote. “In 1982, he underwent brain surgery to correct a life threatening congenital defect. He was back on ‘Soul Train’ six months later, but never really recovered.”

Cornelius and his first wife, his high school honey, divorced. His second marriage was no picnic: He was charged with domestic violence in 2008, eventually pleading no contest. He got 36 months probation.

“He had alluded to health problems in divorce papers,” The Times wrote.

I’d bet that at least some of those health problems were mental issues arising after his brain surgery. It’s a shame that he apparently decided to end his torment with a bullet.