Getty Images
Getty Images

Damita Jo Freeman of 'Soul Train' Was a Great Dancer but Once Angered Don Cornelius on the Show

Monica Otayza
Oct 15, 2021
01:30 P.M.

Damita Jo Freeman was a fresh talent back then on "Soul Train" but she's already a great dancer. However, she managed to get Don Cornelius furious, and here's how it happened.


After Pam Brown discovered the then-ballerina at a club, Freeman was granted her first encounter with Don Cornelius and was paired up with dance partner Don Campbell. She joined the show after she and Campbell enrolled in the show's weekly dance contests.

Damita Jo Freeman and Don Cornelius of "Soul Train" | Source: Getty Images

Damita Jo Freeman and Don Cornelius of "Soul Train" | Source: Getty Images



After working their way through several tight competitions, Freeman and Campbell won and earned a spot on the program. However, it wasn't always easy for Freeman, as she once angered Don Cornelius on the show when she was a newbie.

Freeman shook things up both on and off-screen during her stint at the show, revealing she would fight for the dancers who were not paid unless they performed with an artist.



While starting off on the show, Freeman realized she had some stellar skills after the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, chose her to be his dance partner onstage during one episode of the show. Recalling the incident, she said:

"He grabbed me real quick and said, 'you gotta dance with me.'"



However, at the time, she had never heard his song titled "Super Bad." Instead, she went up the stage, listened to the beat, and went with the flow.

When Freeman and another Soul Train performer Patricia Davis had to dance it off in front of Brown, it came with no surprise that Freeman won with him as the judge.



Many people thought that this competition would lead to tension between Freeman and Davis, but the dancer, later on, assured fans that there were no hard feelings between them. Davis said:

"I wasn't angry. No one was angry. It was a friendly competition. People [were] pulling for Damita and she deserved to win."



It wasn't that time that Cornelius was angry, but on the second time she appeared on the show. During that episode, Joe Tex asked her to perform his 1972 hit "I Gotcha."

Although it was because of that performance that she sealed her spot as a regular dancer on "Soul Train," it was also the time Cornelius was furious with her while working behind the camera.



At the same time that she was dancing on stage, a nervous Cornelius could be seen behind the camera. He was pacing back and forth, pointing at the stage to tell Freeman to get off.

However, she decided that the show must go on, and since Tex did not stop, she didn't either. Although Cornelius was disappointed, it didn't harm Freeman in any way, nor did it jeopardize her role on the show.



Ultimately, Freeman shook things up both on and off-screen during her stint at the show, revealing she would fight for the dancers who were not paid unless they performed with an artist.

On top of that, she fought for essential things, such as providing dancers with tissue to wipe off their sweat and having more than one drink each during longer days where they shot two episodes.



After the successful show, Freeman found herself choreographing for some of music's biggest names like Diana Ross, Cher, and huge events like the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Being the talented woman she was, she would also work as a production assistant for TV shows, some of which she was given the opportunity to act on. Since then, she decided to pursue acting as well.

Damita Jo Freeman for "Private Benjamin" on September 1, 1982 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images

Damita Jo Freeman for "Private Benjamin" on September 1, 1982 in Los Angeles | Source: Getty Images



Freeman starred in the 1980 sitcom "Private Benjamin" and was a name that many artists remembered – including Michael Jackson, who enjoyed how she would dance the robot.

Despite all the many things she did in her career, the most special would always be "Soul Train." In fact, many of the dancers who were ever part of the show feel the same way.



However, despite the festive mood of the show, its mastermind, Cornelius, was plagued with problems towards the end of his life. In 2012, he died at the age of 75 after he shot himself in the head.

The official autopsy report showed that Cornelius suffered an aneurysm 15 years prior to his death, which resulted in constant seizures throughout the years. As he got older, his health continued to decline despite him taking medication.



During the last six months of his life, Cornelius had been "depressed" about his failing health. On the day he took his own life, his son Tony shared that his father actually called him.

At the time, Tony believed it was an urgent call, so he rushed to his father's home immediately. His father told him that he didn't know how much longer he could hold on, and that was something that alarmed Tony.



Tony, who spoke on "CBS This Morning," shared that he and his father shared a close bond. He knew all along that because of how his dad's life turned out and his failing health, he was uncomfortable.

Despite losing him to suicide, he shared that he would like to remember his dad for the legacy he lived. Speaking about it on the show, he said:

"I think his legacy will be that he really worked on the fine points. He always taught me it's the fine points that count."

Tony added that his dad worked really hard when it came to his professional career and imparted his knowledge to him about TV production. The proud son said that if there's one thing his dad wanted to do, it was to serve.

Please fill in your e-mail so we can share with you our top stories!
By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy
Related posts

18-Year-Old Dancer Cuts Parents Out of Her $3M Prize After They Urge Her to Get Rid of Her Baby — Story of the Day

February 08, 2022

Inside Tom Bergeron's Marriage with Wife of 39 Years Who Helped Him with His Anger Management

April 14, 2022

Tyler Perry Was Broke Living in His Car - He Recalls in Tears That He Was Only 'Praying & Believing’

February 23, 2022

Inside Dick Van Dyke & Decades Younger Wife’s Home Where He Shows off Routine He Says Will Get Him to 100

April 22, 2022

Bruno Mars Had to Live In a Zoo After Parents’ Divorce – He Slept in 1 Bed With His Dad & Brother

April 05, 2022

Erin Moran 'Battled Demons' & Was 'Nobody' after Hollywood 'Chewed Her up and Spat Her Out'

April 06, 2022

Homeless Man Who Left His Sister 38 Years Ago Returns to Her with an Old Box from Their Father – Story of the Day

April 07, 2022

Barbra Streisand's Mother Never Said She Loved Her & Was Jealous of Daughter's Success

March 13, 2022

Woman Sues Her Husband to Receive Compensation, Daughter Supports Stepfather, Not Her – Story of the Day

February 07, 2022

Robin Williams Wanted His Children to Be Proud of Him — Meet His 3 Kids Who He Cherished

March 09, 2022

Patrick Swayze’s Wife Stayed by His Side & Held His Hand until His Death – She Still Feels His ‘Presence’

March 29, 2022

Marlo Thomas’ Spouse Was a Virgin before Marriage to Mom of His 5 Kids & a Lousy Lover Afterward

February 03, 2022

Widowed Mom Learns Her Son Escapes Home Every Night, He Returns One Day with Bag Full of Cash – Story of the Day

April 11, 2022

Firefighter Saves then Adopts Orphan Boy who Finds Mom’s Photo in Father’s Room 40 Years Later – Story of the Day

February 27, 2022