Soul Train creator Don Cornelius was found dead around 4am on Wednesday, February 1, 2012, at his Mullholland Drive home in Sherman Oaks, California. Los Angeles police reported the cause was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, indicating an apparent suicide. He was 75.
Cornelius launched Soul Train in 1970 as a local television show in Chicago, where he was born. He asummed hosting and executive producer duties when the show went national the next year. It ran in syndication through 2006. The dance-oriented show was targeted toward teens and was one of the first to prominently feature African-Americans. Among the legendary performers to appear on the show were James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five, Ike & Tina Turner, and Barrry White. The show was said to have “defined black style and entertainment” YBW and was significant for bringing “the best R&B, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV.” BB
Among the show’s popular features were the “’Soul Train Line,’ where individual dancers showed off their moves between two lines of people, and the ‘Soul Train Scramble Board,’ where dancers unscrambled letters that spelled the name of that night’s performer.” MS
Neil Portnow, the President and CEO of the Recording Academy, released a statement noting Cornelius was “a true visionary and trailblazer” BB whose “beautiful, deep voice and measured pace always sounded warm and familiar to the millions who admired and followed his broadcasts.” BB Author Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote that in black households, it was a ritual when Soul Train aired to “sway, swoon, and sing the lyrics belted out by the parade of R&B legends and top hit artists.” MS Fans also tried to do their “best imitation of the latest dance steps displayed by the show’s perpetual motion gyrating couples.” MS
Cornelius was also known for catch phrases such as “and you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey!” YBW Each show opened with a welcome to “the hippest trip in America” MS and closed with him saying, “I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!” YBW
Don, in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul.
- Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame (2005)
Resources and Related Links:
- the DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry for Don Cornelius
- BB Billboard.com ‘Soul Train’ Creator Don Cornelius Dead in Apparent Suicide by Associated Press (2/1/2012)
- MS MSNBC ‘Soul Train’ creator Don Cornelius commits suicide by msnbc.com staff and wire (2/1/2012)
- PM Paste magazine Don Cornelius: 1936-2012 by Tyler Kane (2/1/2012)
- YBW YourBlackWorld.net Soul Train’s Don Cornelius Dead at 75; Appears to be Suicide (2/1/2012)