The Washington Post

‘Soul Train’ creator Don Cornelius dies

Don Cornelius (Kevin Winter/GETTY IMAGES)

“Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius died Wednesday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to police reports. He was 75.

His most famous project, long-running “Soul Train” series, was on the air from 1971 to 2006.

(Read an obituary of Cornelius here; and here’s a photo gallery of the famed music show host through the years.)

While there’s no word yet whether the Grammy Awards airing next Sunday will have a special tribute to Cornelius, the Recording Academy issued a statement this afternoon:

“Recording Academy Trustees Award recipient Don Cornelius created a cultural phenomenon with ‘Soul Train,’ providing a platform for recording artists to showcase their talents to a wider, more diverse audience, “ said Neil Portnow, president and CEO. “He made an indelible impact on American television, one that will continue to be appreciated for generations to come. His beautiful, deep voice and measured pace always sounded warm and familiar to the millions who admired and followed his broadcasts. The music industry has lost a true visionary and trailblazer, and our deepest sympathies extend to his family, friends, and all who welcomed him in their homes for so many years. “

Executives at Soul Train Holdings also offered statements today after word of Cornelius’s death:

“We are overwhelmed with the news regarding the passing of Don Cornelius. Our deepest sympathy and thoughts are with his family at this time,” said Kenard Gibbs, CEO of Soul Train Holdings. “He was a true television visionary and his contributions to African American culture, music, and entertainment are incomparable. The outpouring of affection and tributes to his legacy are a true testament to the profound impact that his life’s work had on many generations.”

Magic Johnson, the Soul Train Holdings chairman, said: “Don Cornelius was a pioneer, an innovator, and a trailblazer. He was the first African-American to create, produce, host and more importantly OWN his own television show. Soul Train was a nationally syndicated show that paved the way for singers, musicians and dancers, giving them the ultimate platform to showcase their talents when no one else would. Every Saturday morning I looked forward to watching Soul Train, as did millions of other people. Soul Train taught the world how to dance! Don’s contribution to us all is immeasurable. He will truly be missed. I thank him for trusting me with his Soul Train brand and I will carry on his legacy through it. My condolences to his son and my good friend Tony Cornelius and the entire Cornelius family.”

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.


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