Don Cornelius, who created the long-running R&B and dance-music showcase Soul Train (but which also featured some guests from the rock world, like Elton and David Bowie), was found dead this morning.
Law enforcement officials in Sherman Oaks, California, believe he shot himself in the head.
The 75-year-old was trained as a journalist on WVON, an African-American talk radio station in his native Chicago. He came up with the idea for Soul Train during the Civil Rights movement, noting there was no showcase for black music on national television.
The show debuted in 1971 and quickly became a popular stop for major acts such as James Brown and Michael Jackson. Cornelius hosted the programme from its inception until 1993; Soul Train ended its long run in its original form in 2006.
The show had a huge influence on popular culture and the pop charts. One of its themes, TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),became a hit record, and references to Cornelius and Soul Train have appeared in dozens of songs over the years.
In his later years, Cornelius had a troubled marriage. In 2009, he was sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery. In his divorce case that year, he also mentioned having significant health issues.
Upon hearing about his friend, Quincy Jones said he was shocked and called him a ”visionary.”