Don Cornelius, host and creator of the landmark television program Soul Train, died this morning at the age of 75, after apparently taking his own life.
Officers found Cornelius at his Los Angeles home around 4 am, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Don Cornelius’ contributions to the world of television, music, Black history and pop culture cannot be overstated. Soul Train was the place to see Black artists, entertainers, and everyday people like you and me, at a time when Black faces on television and in the media were incredibly hard to come by.
Before BET, before the Cosby Show, and before Tyler Perry, there was 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.’
Cornelius, who was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said in 2006 he remained grateful to the musicians who made ‘Soul Train’ the destination for the best and latest in black music.
‘I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for ‘Soul Train,” Cornelius said.”
R.I.P. Don Cornelius