America

Don Cornelius, 'Soul Train' Creator, Dead Of Gunshot Wound

Don Cornelius at his office in Los Angeles in 2006. i i

Don Cornelius at his office in Los Angeles in 2006. Damian Dovarganes/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Damian Dovarganes/AP
Don Cornelius at his office in Los Angeles in 2006.

Don Cornelius at his office in Los Angeles in 2006.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

The Los Angeles Police Department says Don Cornelius, the creator of "Soul Train," has died of a gunshot wound.

A spokesperson for the department said Cornelius was found at at his Mulholland Drive home and transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Cornelius was 75.

The Los Angeles Times, the AP and TMZ are reporting the gunshot wound was self-inflicted.

LAPD says that police were called to Cornelius' home at about 4 a.m., but they have not determined whether this was a suicide.

The AP adds a bit on "Soul Train:"

"Soul Train" began in 1970 in Chicago on WCIU-TV as a local program and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006.

It introduced television audiences to such legendary artists as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Barry White and brought the best R&B, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV and had teenagers dance to them. It was one of the first shows to showcase African-Americans prominently, although the dance group was racially mixed. Cornelius was the first host and executive producer.

"There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity," he said in 2006, then added: "I'm trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them."

The L.A. Times adds that Cornelius hosted "Soul Train" until 1993. The show was last produced in 2006.

Update at 4:30 p.m. ET. Why He's Important:

Our friends at The Record blog explain "Why Don Cornelius Matters."

"Don Cornelius proved a truism about America and race that so few people, even today, understand: black culture, expressed in undiluted form and unapologetically, will by virtue become accepted by the American mainstream."

Update at 1:09 p.m. ET. 'A Visionary Pioneer':

The AP has started collecting reaction to Cornelius' death.

Aretha Franklin called Cornelius an "American treasure," adding: "God bless him for the solid good and wholesome foundation he provided for young adults worldwide and the unity and brotherhood he singlehandedly brought about with his most memorable creation of 'Soul Train.'"

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

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.