Don Cornelius, creator of ‘Soul Train,’ dies at 75

February 1, 2012

Don Cornelius, the creator of ‘Soul Train,’ was found dead in his California home early Wednesday morning. Cornelius, 75, was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound about an hour after he was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to the coroner’s office.

The innovator was best known for his work on “Soul Train,” says David Malitz of Click Track:

Cornelius launched “Soul Train” in Chicago in 1970 and it quickly became a seminal part of black culture, featuring the hottest music, fashion and dancing. He hosted the show until 1993 and in addition to his mellifluous voice and of-the-moment style, he became known for his signature sign-off: "I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soooooouuuuullllllll."

While there is no confirmation yet whether the Grammy Awards, airing next Sunday, will have a special tribute, the Recording Academy issued a statement:

“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.”

Fans, friends and co-workers were quick to release statements and emotional memories of the TV legend. Aretha Franklin, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Quincy Jones were a few who expressed their deep sadness, the Associated Press reports

“I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius,” Quincy Jones said. “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,” he said. “My heart goes out to Don’s family and loved ones.”

Washingtonians were likewise quick to react. Nizam Ali, 41, son of Ben Ali, founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl, was with the breakfast crew when he overhead the news on CNN, Malitz says:

 “My immediate reaction was just kind of disbelief, hearing he was gone. Then  I just had instant memories,” Ali says. Soul Train had such an “impact on all African Americans really, of our generation. We’d watch and catch up on the latest dance moves. [Cornelius] was probably one of the coolest guys on television. He had that rich deep voice. It was never flamboyant, never egotistical.” 

Cornelius’ rich, smooth voice touched many Americans. And for many black Americans, “Soul Train” was “must-see, can’t-miss television,” says Robert E. Pierre of The Root DC:

If it was on, you were watching. This was before we had the Internet and DVRs that allow us to watch whatever we want, whenever we want. Then, if you missed a show, you missed it.

And nobody wanted to miss the opportunity to see Aretha Franklin as she rocked steady, Marvin Gaye asking you to get it on or The Jackson Five dancing, dancing, dancing.

Share your memories of Don Cornelius.

More on Don Cornelius:

The Root: Remembering Don Cornelius, creator of ‘Soul Train’; dead at 75

Click Track : 'Soul Train' creator Don Cornelius dead at age 75

The Early Lead : Don Cornelius dies: Magic Johnson discusses owning, dancing on "Soul Train"

Fans react to the death of 'Soul Train' creator Don Cornelius

The TV Column : 'Soul Train' creator Don Cornelius dies

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