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Soul Train's Cornelius dead from apparent suicide
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Soul Train's Cornelius dead from apparent suicide

Show's founder died from self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities say

  • Don Cornelius interviews James Brown on 'Soul Train' in 1974.
    soultrain.com screengrabDon Cornelius interviews James Brown on 'Soul Train' in 1974.

Don Cornelius, creator of “Soul Train,” the television dance show dating back to the 1970s, was found dead in Los Angeles on Wednesday from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 75.

An unidentified person called the police from Cornelius’ house just before 4 a.m., and said shots had been fired, police spokesman Chris No told The New York Times. Officers arrived to find Cornelius lifeless on the floor with a gunshot wound to the head, which appeared to be suicide. He was pronounced dead after the Los Angeles Fire Department transferred him to nearby hospital, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Washington Post reported.

“It was reported as a suicide, a self-inflicted wound,” said Ed Winter, Los Angeles County assistant chief coroner, The Times reported. “I have investigators at the hospital.”

Cornelius started the show “Soul Train” in Chicago in 1970, which broke down racial barriers by exposing the entire country to music of African Americans and featuring appearances by Michael Jackson, James Brown and Aretha Franklin. The show, which featured not only music, but dancing and popular fashion, became one of the longest running syndicated shows in television history, The Times reported. It was eventually syndicated in over 100 markets and aired nationally from 1971 until 2006.

Cornelius played host and producer to the show, making his sign-off a staple of pop culture. "I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soooooouuuuullllllll." He hosted the show until 1993 and in an interview with the Washington Post in 1995, called the show “the godmother and godfather of all black entertainment television.”

"I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius," said Quincy Jones, the Associated Press reported. "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."

Cornelius, who was a former disc jockey before “Soul Train,” suffered from health problems for over 30 years. In 1982 he went through a 21-hour operation to correct a congenital malformation in blood vessels in his brain, ABC News reported. He was also arrested in 2008 for domestic violence against his estranged wife, Victoria Avila-Cornelius and pleaded guilty in 2009 to one count of “corporal injury resulting in traumatic condition of a spouse,” and was put on probation for 36 months and ordered to pay over $1,000 in fines.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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