Don Cornelius, who created the long-running R&B and dance-music showcase Soul Train, was found dead in his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif., early this morning. He was 75. Law enforcement officials suspect suicide; the body was found with a gunshot wound to the head.
Trained as a journalist on WVON, an African-American talk radio station in his native Chicago, Cornelius conceived of Soul Train during the Civil Rights movement, noting there was no showcase for black music on national television. Soul Train debuted in 1971 and quickly became a popular stop for major acts such as James Brown, the O’Jays and Michael Jackson. Cornelius hosted the show from its inception until 1993; Soul Train ended its long run in its original form in 2006.
The show had a huge influence on popular culture and the pop charts. One of its themes, “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” became a hit record, and references to Cornelius and Soul Train have appeared in dozens of songs over the years. Cornelius famously closed each episode with the parting words, “We wish you love, peace and soul.”
Watch Cornelius interview a young Janet Jackson on a 1986 episode of the show: