Don Cornelius, Creator of "Soul Train," Dies At Age 75

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Don Cornelius, creator of the long-running TV dance show "Soul Train," shot himself to death Wednesday morning at his Los Angeles home, police said. He was 75.

Officers responding to a report of a shooting found Cornelius at his Mulholland Drive home at around 4 a.m., police said. He was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 4:56 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter.

"I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius," said Quincy Jones. "Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business. Before MTV there was `Soul Train,' that will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius. His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched. My heart goes out to Don's family and loved ones."

"Soul Train" began in 1970 in Chicago on WCIU-TV as a local program and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006.

It introduced television audiences to such legendary artists as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Barry White and brought the best R&B, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV and had teenagers dance to them. It was one of the first shows to showcase African-Americans prominently, although the dance group was racially mixed. Cornelius was the first host and executive producer.

"There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity," he said in 2006, then added: "I'm trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them."

Cornelius, who was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said in 2006 he remained grateful to the musicians who made "Soul Train" the destination for the best and latest in black music.

"I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for `Soul Train,'" Cornelius said.

The series spawned a franchise that includes the Soul Train Music Awards, the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards and the Soul Train Christmas Starfest.

Cornelius stepped down as "Soul Train" host in 1993.

In his later years, Cornelius had a troubled marriage. In 2009, he was sentenced to three years' probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery. In his divorce case that year, he also mentioned having significant health issues.


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  • by Endurance Swimmer Location: Greenville on Feb 3, 2012 at 10:40 PM
    I really agree with Audra and others; As a teen in the mid 70's-early 80's, I also watched Soul Train and American Bandstand! Mr. Don Cornelius, you will be missed, and I'm 47 and white, but loved Soul Train!!
  • by Skiy Location: gvillee on Feb 2, 2012 at 11:05 AM
    So he was 75 he could have waited 2 years and it would have diend naturally. Smh
  • by parmele on Feb 2, 2012 at 09:41 AM
    this is the first time i've that reading the comment have been refreshing to read . don would be pleased to see the impact soul train and his life made for both ebony and ivory as well as other races.i respect you all for your comments and for keeping them clean. good to know we still have some people that don't let race over shadow them. rip in don.
  • by Mom Location: NC on Feb 2, 2012 at 05:58 AM
    I am white and watched Sooooouuuuuuuulllll Train every Saturday. It was part of Isis, Bugs Bunny and my Saturday before nothing else was on to watch but my parents football games. Still can't move like that! I would break something trying now. RIP Don. You were part of my childhood. Very sad.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 2, 2012 at 04:33 AM
    I wanted to say this, but Scott beat me to it. Anyhow, you're right, Scott...I always would feel kinda let down when Soul Train came on. It meant that Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Isis and SHAZAM were all done for the day.
  • by ~ALPHA female~ on Feb 1, 2012 at 11:18 PM
    He shot himself on the first day of Black History Month.... I'll always remember that.
  • by tee Location: gville on Feb 1, 2012 at 07:51 PM
    I was so shocked to hear the news of Don Cornelius. Saturday mornings were for Soul Train, Don your legacy will live on. You created a venue, where we could see artist we wouldn't see on any other TV shows. I'm so sorry,that whatever was so troubling, you felt the need to end your life that way. R.I.P. Don.
  • by tee Location: gville on Feb 1, 2012 at 07:51 PM
    I was so shocked to hear the news of Don Cornelius. Saturday mornings were for Soul Train, Don your legacy will live on. You created a venue, where we could see artist we wouldn't see on any other TV shows. I'm so sorry,that whatever was so troubling, you felt the need to end your life that way. R.I.P. Don.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 1, 2012 at 06:42 PM
    as a white guy i loved watching soul train.the music was great.im talking 70's and 80's music not the stuff on now.rip don
  • by Don Location: Bath on Feb 1, 2012 at 04:42 PM
    Well said ebony and ivory. Well said.
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