The founder of the most important showcase ever for soul music on American television, Don Cornelius was found this morning of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His body was found at around 4 a.m. at his Sherman Oaks, Calif. home, and he was later pronounced dead at the hospital. He was 75.
Known for his sonorous voice and effortlessly cool demeanor as the long-time host of Soul Train, Cornelius shepherded "the hippest trip in America" from its earliest days. A full decade before MTV, Soul Train allowed artists like the Jackson 5, the O'Jays, Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes, and other stars of soul's golden age to be seen by fans across the country. Later on, Soul Train was among the first TV programs to feature rap artists like Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC, though Cornelius admitted that he wasn't a fan of the genre. But the dancers were as much the stars of Soul Train as the artists. If you wanted to stay on top of the latest moves and clothes coming out of urban America, Soul Train was must-see television.
Soul Train began airing in 1970 on Chicago's WCIU and was inspired by Red Hot And Blues, which aired a few years earlier and featured predominantly young black dancers. Soul Train became an immediate hit—the first episode featured Jerry Butler, the Emotions, and the Chi-Lites—and moved to national syndication the following year. To this day, it is still the longest-running show ever in syndication, running for 35 years and more than 1,100 episodes. The show ceased producing new episodes in 2006, though re-runs have appeared on various outlets in recent years. [via TMZ}