"Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius commits suicide

Wed Feb 1, 2012 6:41pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Don Cornelius, creator of the iconic TV music and dance show "Soul Train" that helped introduce Americans to black pop culture, died on Wednesday after shooting himself in the head, Los Angeles officials said.

Police found the body of Cornelius, 75, at his house in the wealthy, hillside area of Los Angeles called Sherman Oaks at around 4 a.m on Wednesday. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

"The death was reported as a suicide, a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head," Los Angeles coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said. Police said there was no evidence of foul play.

It was not immediately known why Cornelius would have taken his own life, although he was said to have been in failing health in recent years.

Cornelius, who launched "Soul Train" in Chicago in the early 1970s and hosted it for more than 20 years, told a judge in his 2009 divorce that he was suffering from significant health issues and wanted the case settled quickly.

"Soul Train", which ran until 2006, became part of U.S. pop culture history, boosting the careers of newcomers like the Jackson Five and older artists such as James Brown who were trying to tap into a younger audience.

Almost immediately following news that he died, tributes poured in from the music world.

Aretha Franklin, who appeared on the dance and TV show, called his death "sad, stunning and downright shocking and a huge and momentous loss to the African-American community and the world at large."

Composer and record producer Quincy Jones said he was "deeply saddened" at the sudden passing of his friend, colleague and business partner.   Continued...

<p>Los Angeles police and news media are shown at the house of Don Cornelius in Los Angeles February 1, 2012. REUTERS/Gene Blevins</p>