By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: February 1, 2012
Source: New York Times
Don Cornelius, the producer and television host who created the television dance show “Soul Train,” was found shot dead in his Los Angeles home on Wednesday morning, and detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department were looking trying to determine if his death was a suicide.
Don Cornelius hosting “Soul Train” in the 1970s.
A person at the producer’s house on Mulholland Drive in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood called the police and reported shots had been fired just before 4 a.m., a police spokesman, Chris No, said. When officers arrived, they were let into the house and found Mr. Cornelius lying lifeless on the floor. He was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 75 years Old.
“We don’t know if he committed suicide,” Mr. No said. “It’s still under investigation.”
“Soul Train” was one of the longest-running syndicated shows in television history and played a critical role in spreading the music of black America to the world, offering wide exposure to musicians such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague and business partner Don Cornelius,” said Quincy Jones, according to the Associated Press. “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. My heart goes out to Don’s family and loved ones.”
Mr. Cornelius, a former disc jockey, created the show in 1970 in Chicago on WCIU-TV and served as its writer, producer and host. Quickly becoming a success, the show was broadcast nationally in 1971, beginning its 35-year run. Besides the performers, the program showcased young dancers who would strut their stuff, laying the groundwork for countless dance programs , including current hits like Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance?” and MTV’s “America’s Best Dance Crew.” “We had a show that kids gravitated to,” Mr. Cornelius said.
In a 2010 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Mr. Cornelius said he was excited about a movie project he was developing about the show. “We’ve been in discussions with several people about getting a movie off the ground. It wouldn’t be the ‘Soul Train’ dance show. It would be more of a biographical look at the project,” he said. “It’s going to be about some of the things that really happened on the show.”
Mr. Cornelius stopped hosting the show in 1993, and “Soul Train” ceased production in 2006. Two years later he sold the show to MadVision Entertainment.
R.I.P. to a Musical Legend and a Black Pioneer!