Don Cornelius, the legendary producer and television host who created Soul Train, was found shot dead in his Los Angeles home. The Los Angeles Police Department and the county coroner’s office believe this was a suicide, reports the LA Times. Cornelius was 75 years old.
A family member of Don Cornelius arrived at his Mulholland Drive home on Wednesday morning and found Soul Train creator with a gunshot wound to the head, authorities said. He was rushed to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to law enforcement sources. The sources said detectives think it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound but stressed they are still investigating. ... The LAPD's initial review of the crime scene suggested no sign of foul play.
Cornelius' iconic television show began in Chicago in 1970, adds the Chicago Tribune.
Born in Chicago in 1936, Cornelius grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood and worked numerous jobs: he sold insurance, worked as a TV newsman and deejayed at WVON, which serenaded the South and West Sides with soul music. While employed at WCIU-TV in the '60s, he started hosting soul dance parties around the city and eventually approached station management about a show based on the same idea. They accepted.
"Soul Train" debuted in 1970 with low expectations and overhead. Color cameras weren’t in the budget and the dancefloor was the size of a typical living room. But the show struck a chord with an audience that had been largely ignored by other teen-oriented dance shows, most famously Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." For young, African-American kids, "Soul Train" was must-see after-school viewing because it presented mostly R&B artists that other shows neglected. And, perhaps most importantly, it showcased the hippest dance moves.
The show moved to Los Angeles in its second year and entered into national syndication, turning Cornelius from local celebrity into a music-industry tastemaker. Stars such as Sly and the Family Stone, Al Green, James Brown and Aretha Franklin appeared. Indicative of the show’s burgeoning reach (and bigger budget), Barry White showed up in 1975 wearing a black velvet tuxedo and conducting a 40-piece orchestra. White performers wanted in, too, and Elton John and David Bowie were among the guests.
Cornelius stopped hosting the show in 1993 and it ceased production in 2006.
Cornelius had recently gone through a bitter divorce. This was "after he was arrested by the LAPD for alleged spousal abuse in October 2008, and [his ex-wife] filed two restraining orders against him," reports LA Weekly.
"As always in parting, we wish you love, peace, and soul." A recent interview with Cornelius from Chicago's V103 AFTER THE JUMP ...