Feb 03 2012

Don Cornelius of Soul Train, Madame Butterfly and Michael

Category: Friends,Photos,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 2:04 am

Don Cornelius with a young Michael during one of their many interviews

Don Cornelius, the creator of the pioneering dance and music TV show Soul Train on which Michael and his brothers appeared many times, passed away on February 1st, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. When Michael passed, Don remembered him and the Jacksons. A dancer from Soul Train who knew Michael and the Jacksons had some memories to share as well. Here they are, along with a video compilation video of Don’s many interviews with Michael on Soul Train over the years.

First, Don Cornelius from Time :

The younger guys coming up used him as the standard. If there’s anyone to use as the standard, to shoot at, to compare yourself with, it’s Michael Jackson.

The word got around that these kids from Gary, Ind. — next door to Chicago, where I was working as an announcer — were amazing. A lot of the local recording artists were being told, “If these Jackson 5 kids are on the show that you’re contemplating [doing], don’t book the show because they will kick your ass.” That’s when Michael was 6 or 7. I got to know their father Joe Jackson accidentally — or I sought him out, I can’t remember; it’s been a long time. Most of the guys I worked with at the radio station did some moonlighting as stage-show promoters, and I found a venue and decided to do one. Joe was nice enough to give me the group. That’s how I met them and first got to know Michael. He was about 8.

Michael epitomized the incredible lead singer that most major groups tend to have: the Miracles with Smokey Robinson, the Commodores with Lionel Richie, the Temptations with Eddie and Dennis. Joe Jackson had figured out that that was the formula: he had the spectacular lead singer who could do every step that James Brown ever demonstrated. Michael was just a killer onstage. That’s the first thing you noticed. He knew his way around a stage; he commanded the whole operation.

He had a star quality, even as an 8-year-old. He was such a lovable individual. If you were backstage, you saw the women who happened to be on the same show, and they just kind of adopted Michael. They were always hugging and kissing and rubbing him — it went on and on, more than almost any other kid could possibly bear. I’m sure Michael got tired of it, but he never complained. They were all over him. As time went on, he sort of fell in love with Diana Ross —her music and her singing — and I think it was mutual. She fell in love with him also. He was still only 9 or 10.

With a guy who’s that young, you don’t try to project how good he’s gonna be ’cause he’s only 4 ft. tall. You’re looking at a small person who can do anything he wants to do onstage — with his feet or his voice. To get to the level of people who can do that, you’re talking about James Brown as a performer. You’re talking about Aretha Franklin as a singer. Or Stevie Wonder or Donny Hathaway — people who were renowned for being able to do whatever they wanted to do with their voices. Michael was like that as a kid. As he began to evolve, you could hear Diana in his singing. You could hear Stevie Wonder. You could hear Marvin Gaye. You could hear Smokey. Once he put it all together, you wouldn’t hear anybody imitating him, because he just had too much going for him as a singer. He was the man. The younger guys coming up used him as the standard. If there’s anyone to use as the standard, to shoot at, to compare yourself with, it’s Michael Jackson.

SOURCE: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1907409_1907413_1907485,00.html

Pat Davis aka 'Madame Butterfly'

And here is an interview by Soul Train with Patricia Davis, from Soul Train’s own website:

Patricia Davis is one of the original members of the Soul Train Gang who danced on the show from nearly its very beginning. Patricia remembers fun loving Michael who she nicknamed ‘Dodo Bird

Soul Train: You were also good friends with Michael Jackson and the Jackson family, correct?

Patricia Davis: Yes. The first time they came to Soul Train, they invited me and Gary Keys (another popular Soul Train dancer) to their dressing room because they loved our dancing on the show. After that, they invited Gary and me to their house and we taught them things like the Robot, locking steps and certain neck movements. We would even go to the movies with them, but they had to wear disguises so that no one would recognize them.

Soul Train: What are some of your memories from that time with Michael Jackson?

Patricia Davis: I remember one time I was at his house and we had just finished dancing and we went outside and I playfully grabbed Michael and we were playing and running back and forth between parked cars in the Jacksons driveway. Suddenly, a big mafia type guy grabbed me and said, “Don’t hurt him (Michael), he’s worth a lot of money. Be careful of how you are playing.” I didn’t know who that man was, whether he was a security guard or someone doing business with Joe Jackson (Michael’s father).

Soul Train: Michael has said in interviews that he was sad and shy during his adolescence. Did you witness any of that during the times you spent with him?

Patricia Davis: Yes, I got a sense of his shyness. I understood Michael so much. He just wanted to dance and perform. But when he came off the stage, he was introverted. It was hard to get away from the camera and the stage. I was the same way. On the set of Soul Train, when the cameras were off, I ran away from them because I was very shy.

But Michael could be a prankster also. Once, when Lisa Jones (another Soul Train dancer) and I were at his house, he asked Lisa, “Do you want some potato chips?” Lisa said, “Yeah, I like potato chips!” So Michael gave Lisa the bag of chips and she reached into the bag and there was a snake in it! (Laughs)

Soul Train: (Laughs) So you also got to see Michael’s playful side?

Patricia Davis: Yes. I even had a nickname for him. Dodo Bird! (Laughs)

Soul Train: The death of Michael Jackson a couple of years ago was shocking and a huge loss. Since he was a friend of yours, I know that it must have been especially painful.

Patricia Davis: Oh yes. Michael’s death was very sad.

Patricia Davis is one of the original members of the Soul Train Gang who danced on the show from nearly its very beginning. A dance icon as well as a fashion icon, she was noted for her 1940s-style outfits and the flowers and butterfly hair pieces she wore in her hair which earned her the nickname “Madame Butterfly.”

And those interviews:

Rest in Peace, Don

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4 Responses to “Don Cornelius of Soul Train, Madame Butterfly and Michael”

  1. Lenell Marshall says:

    Nice article, Don was absolutely right about Michael….thanks Seven!!!!

  2. Dialdancer says:


    Thank you for remembering the man Don Cornelius.

    Thank you for being here.

  3. Susanne says:

    To me it’s significant that Patricia Davis was made aware of some guy already then that “he’s worth a lot of money”. While people possibly really cared about Michael at that time, later it was greed that was put before care.

  4. Sina says:

    Seven thank you for remembering Don. He was instrumental for promoting Jacksons and Michaels solo career.
    Many people who were like milestones in Michaels life and carreer passed away after Michael. Its unsettling that they are now forever history.
    The video you posted is not available anymore due to copyright issues.
    Is it the iconic interview of Don with Michael before singing One day in your life. Michael was so painfully shy and so sweet, talking about his birds. Love the Dannny Bonaducci story ‘I let you say it’
    RIP Don, thank you for soul train, a cultural monument and a platform to many incredible artists. And thank you for sharing many beautiful Michael moments.