Soul Train creator Don Cornelius commits suicide

2012-02-02 07:28

Los Angeles – Don Cornelius, creator of the iconic TV music and dance show Soul Train that helped introduce Americans to black pop culture, died after shooting himself in the head.

Los Angeles police found the body of Cornelius (75) at his house in the wealthy, hillside area of Los Angeles called Sherman Oaks at around 4am yesterday. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“The death was reported as a suicide, a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head,” Los Angeles coroner’s assistant chief Ed Winter said. Police said there was no evidence of foul play.

It was not immediately known why Cornelius would have taken his life, although he was said to have been in failing health in recent years.

Cornelius, who launched Soul Train in Chicago in the early 1970s and hosted it for more than 20 years, told a judge in his 2009 divorce that he was suffering from significant health issues and wanted the case settled quickly.

Soul Train, which ran until 2006, became part of US pop culture history, boosting the careers of newcomers like the Jackson Five and older artists such as James Brown who were trying to tap into a younger audience.

Almost immediately following news that he died, tributes poured in from the music world.

Aretha Franklin, who appeared on the dance and TV show, called his death “sad, stunning and downright shocking and a huge and momentous loss to the African-American community and the world at large”.

Composer and record producer Quincy Jones said he was “deeply saddened” at the sudden passing of his friend, colleague and business partner.

The Recording Academy, which gives out the Grammys, called Cornelius a “trailblazer” who “created a cultural phenomenon with Soul Train”.

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