Spotted @ The Single Fathers Blog
First you get the money. Then you get the power. Then you get…Death? Doesn’t even sound right does it? Well it seems as though that is the way things have been going as of late. There have been an unusual amount of high profile celebrity deaths this year. And quite frankly too many of them were caused by suicide. Too many men have decided to stop fighting, and just give up on life.
In February of this year I was shocked when I heard that the creator of the TV dance show Soul Train, Don Cornelius killed himself. Cornelius was the 75-year-old creator of one of the longest running shows on television. Soul Train was responsible for taking black music and spreading it across the globe in a time when segregation and racial tension ruled the world. In the 70’s and 80’s Soul Train was where you would go to find everything that was good in the world of R & B, Soul, and Hip Hop music. Cornelius was responsible for showing America a part of the African American experience that they would have otherwise never been exposed to.
Like most African American kids who were born before the 1990’s, I grew up watching Soul Train. Cornelius would have any and everybody on his show that had a popular tune at the time. I would get up on Saturday mornings, sit in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal and watch the dancers move their bodies to all of my favorite songs and see artists perform some of their biggest hits.
At the age of 75 Cornelius should have been at the stage of his life where he could sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor. The hardest days of his life should have been behind him. Growing up on Chicago’s rough and tough Southside. Serving 18 months in Korea as a part of the U.S. Marine Corps. Being a part of the civil rights movement. Creating a brand that helped mold the careers of acts like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and more in a time where black artists couldn’t even dream of getting the same amount of exposure as their white counterparts. Despite overcoming all of those obstacles, there was just one bridge that Cornelius couldn’t cross. And that bridge is called depression.
Cornelius’ spirit was broken. He had been divorced two times. An autopsy revealed that he suffered from seizures for over 15 years after complications from a 21-hour brain operation. In a statement that was released shortly after his death, his son said that Cornelius had been in “extreme pain” shortly before his death and told him “I don’t know how much longer I can take this.” It has been widely speculated that Don Cornelius was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or an early onset of dementia.
Last week the Hip Hop community lost one of it’s most notable executives to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Chris Lighty was the most recent celebrity who made the news after making the decision to end his own life. Lighty was a Hip Hop heavyweight. He was someone who had been visible in the culture for over 20 years. I guess his official job title would be a manager to the stars. But he was so much more than that. Lighty was a brand ambassador, a star maker, a record label owner, a general. He was an integral part of Hip Hop’s transition from break dancing to the boardroom. He put LL Cool J in those gap commercials during the mid 90’s. In 2007 he brokered a deal between rapper 50 Cent and Glacéau’s Vitamin Water that helped the rapper walk away with a hefty $100 million check.
Lighty wasn’t just some fly by night success story. With his partner Mona Scott he created Violator management. Violator was responsible for managing the careers of artists like LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott, Ja Rule, Foxy Brown, and more. He was a man who took Hip Hop, put it on his shoulders and walked it into the world of commercialization. At the age of 44, he had already accomplished what many folks strive for in life. He had gotten the money. He had the power. He had the respect of his peers. But none of those things was enough to guard him from whatever demons he was dealing with. The demons that took control of him on the day that he died.
After his death, there were reports that he was in debt to the IRS for $5 million and that may have been the reason he took his life. Those reports were debunked when it was revealed that he had just sold one of his homes in order to pay his debt off. Then there came the stories about trouble between Lighty and his ex wife. Sources were reporting that Lighty argued with his estranged ex wife Veronica in a Bronx, New York home before telling her “I’m tired of this,” stepping outside and shooting himself in the head with a 9mm handgun. A few days after police found Lighty laying in a pool of his own blood Veronica made a statement through a family friend denying that any argument took place that day. Norman Downes told the NY Daily News “He was in a lot of pain and he possibly had some financial difficulties…But they didn’t get into a fight that day. The only person that really knows is Chris, and he ain’t here.”