The son of “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius said on Thursday his father called him shortly before taking his life, and that he was unhappy and in failing health but kept most of his feelings inside.
Don Cornelius, 75, shot himself in the head at his Los Angeles home early on Wednesday, shocking “Soul Train” fans and hundreds of musicians who appeared on the pioneering 1970s music and dance TV show.
Tony Cornelius, who worked closely with his father on “Soul Train” told “CBS This Morning” that he had received a phone call from his dad on Wednesday morning.
“It was a call of urgency and I came to his home immediately,” he said.
“He had been very unhappy about some things that had gone on in his life and his health was failing,” Tony Cornelius said. But none of his family realized quite how depressed he was.
“My father was extremely private and unfortunately, when you’re a private person, you keep things inside … Obviously, me being extremely close to him, I could tell that he was uncomfortable. But our family could never know that he would — how uncomfortable he really was,” he added.
Cornelius later issued a statement thanking “Soul Train” fans for their support and asking for privacy.
“At this time, we respectfully ask that you allow our family and friends the privacy necessary to get through this difficult time. We thank all the well-wishers and the fans who have supported the Soul Train legacy. Love, Peace and Soul.”
A spokeswoman for the family said a memorial service was being planned for February 13 in Los Angeles. It was not immediately clear whether it would be private or public.
Cornelius created “Soul Train” in 1970 in Chicago and the show ran until 2006, helping to introduce Americans to black pop culture and boosting the careers of such artists as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and The Jackson Five.
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)