Don Cornelius, ‘Soul Train’ Creator, Dead From Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound

Robbie Daw | February 1, 2012 8:22 am

Don Cornelius, creator of long-running musical variety show Soul Train, has died at age 75 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, reports the New York Times. Police found Cornelius’ body at his Los Angeles home on Mulholland Drive early this morning. After officers responded to a report of a shooting, the television producer was officially pronounced dead at 4:56 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter. Chicago native Cornelius launched Soul Train in his home town as a local program, but by the following year, the pioneering series, which primarily showcased soul and R&B music, had gone national. Soul Train aired in syndication for 35 years, from 1971 to 2006, with Cornelius hosting until 1993.

Don Cornelius introduces “the fabulous Aretha Franklin” on Soul Train in 1973

“There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity,” Cornelius said in a 2006 interview. “I’m trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them.”

Heavy D And The Boyz perform on Soul Train in 1988

In 1987, the Soul Train Music Awards spun off from the popular series. Rapper Heavy D, who died in 2011, was honored at last year’s ceremony.

Personal strife appeared to plague Cornelius in recent years. In October 2008, he was arrested at his Los Angeles home on a felony domestic violence charge and released on bail. Though his wife Victoria Avila-Cornelius had filed restraining orders against him, he initially pleaded not guilty to spousal abuse. In 2009, Cornelius changed his plea to no contest and was placed on probation for 36 months.

“I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius,” Quincy Jones told the New York Times today. “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.”

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