'Soul Train's' Don Cornelius commits suicide with self-inflicted gunshot wound
Syndicated TV show introduced America to its vibrant soul, R&B heritage
Don Cornelius, the creator and host of the long-running TV dance show "Soul Train," apparently committed suicide by way of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Cornelius, 75 was discovered at his Sherman Oaks, California home. He had previously complained of "significant health issues."
Acting as the first host and executive producer of "Soul Train," Don Cornelius hosted such acts as Ike and Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, James Brown and Stevie Wonder.
Los Angeles police investigators reported to the coroner that Cornelius died from a "self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."
"Soul Train" began in 1970 in Chicago and aired in syndication from 1971 to March 2006. Spotlighting African-American musicians prominently, it brought the best R&B, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV. While "Soul Train" highlighted mainly African-American act, the dancing teenagers featured on the show were racially mixed.
Acting as the first host and executive producer, Cornelius hosted such acts as Ike and Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, James Brown and Stevie Wonder.
Popular features on the show included the "Soul Train Line," where individual dancers showed off their moves between two lines of people, and the "Soul Train Scramble Board," where dancers unscrambled letters that spelled the name of that night's performer or a prominent African-American.
"Soul Train" began each episode by welcoming viewers to "the hippest trip in America" and closed by wishing them "love, peace and soul."
Singer Aretha Franklin called his death "so sad, stunning and downright shocking."
"Don Cornelius single-handedly brought about a melding and unity of brother and sisterhood among young adults worldwide and globally with the unforgettable creation of 'Soul Train,'" Franklin said.
Singer Smokey Robinson said it was "a musical tragedy."
"He brought exposure to black talent and a positive image to young black teenagers that had never been done before with his creation of 'Soul Train,'" Robinson said.
Gladys Knight, who performed on the pilot of the show more than four decades ago, said Cornelius "opened up so many avenues for African-American artists."
Knight said Cornelius appeared to be in ill health when she saw him recently.
"Last time I saw him, he was pretty sick," Knight said. "He had lost a lot of weight, but he still had that thing about him."
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