The televised dance marathon “Soul Train” was a staple in black culture since its debut in 1971 well into 2006. Don Cornelius, the show’s creator, was found dead in his Sherman Oaks, CA home Wednesday morning by police. Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said Cornelius was pronounced at Cenars Sinai-Medical Center dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 75.
“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.”
Within the last few years, Cornelius has struggled through a 3-year probation after being arrested for beating his wife Victoria Cornelius in 2008, difficult divorce proceedings in 2009 and serious health issues, including a stroke and a brain condition.
He told a Los Angeles judge that he wanted to “finalize this divorce before I die,” which was made official in 2010.
The Soul Train Awards planned to return on Nov. 29 after a two-year hiatus, honoring record executive Anthony “L.A.” Reid, and music legends Chaka Khan, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Charlie Wilson in Atlanta. It was the platform that helped put R&B music at the forefront.
Regardless of his personal problems, Cornelius, who has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, still found passion in the music.
“I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for ‘Soul Train,” he said.
Watch the famed “Soul Train” line below hosted by Cornelius in 1974.