"Soul Train" Creator Don Cornelius Killed In Apparent Suicide
Updated: Updated 02/01/2012 06:14 PM
By: Shazia Khan
Legendary "Soul Train" creator and host Don Cornelius died at age 75 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Los Angeles police answering a report of a shooting at his home found Cornelius early Wednesday morning and he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Born in Chicago in 1937, Cornelius found employment early on as an insurance salesman and a traffic police officer before starting a life-long career in broadcast. With his smooth baritone voice, he worked as a radio announcer , news reporter and a DJ.
In 1970, on the heels of the civil rights movement, Cornelius premiered "Soul Train" on a local Chicago television station. The show, fashioned after Dick Clark's "American Bandstand," went national a year later, and as its host, made his mark on the television landscape for nearly 25 years.
The Reverend Al Sharpton met Cornelius at the age of 19 and considered him a close friend.
"He exposed black music and black dance to the world and he took us from 'race music' to the human race," said Sharpton.
"It reflected who we were and where we were in that generation, musically, the stars we heard on the radio, and then combined that with the dance and the fashion," said Vy Higginsen, the executive director of the Mama Foundation for the Arts.
The show, with its signature "soul train line," featured iconic performers like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and the Isley Brothers, as well as up-and-coming artists.
“His legacy is really the sales of so many black artists. They sold so many records because he introduced them again on television," said Ann Tripp, the news director at WBLS and WLIB.
Cornelius stepped down as host in 1993, but "Soul Train" chugged on through 2006.
In recent years, Cornelius' personal life made headlines. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery and his marriage with his wife Victoria came to a bitter end in 2009. The couple had two sons.
Cornelius was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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