Diana Ross, Don Cornelius
Soul Train creator and longtime host Don Cornelius was found dead at his home Wednesday morning in Sherman Oaks, Calif., the Los Angeles Times reported. The Los Angeles Police Department discovered Cornelius' body about 4 a.m., and sources said a family member found him with a gunshot wound to the head that apparently was self-inflicted.
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Authorities have ruled out foul play. Detectives have not found a suicide note.
Born in Chicago, Cornelius, who was 75, started his career as a radio personality and later went on to create and host the musical variety show, Soul Train, in 1971. The series aired in syndication until March 2006, and spotlighted R&B, soul and rap performers. It was often called "the black American Bandstand"—an analogy Cornelius himself disdained.
The show claimed in its last seasons that it was the "longest-running, first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history." More than 1,100 episodes were produced.
The impeccably dressed host was known for ending each show by saying in his distinctive baritone voice: "I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!" He stopped hosting the show in 1993.
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Soul Train also spawned the Soul Train Music Awards in 1987. The 2011 Soul Train Awards aired last November on BET.
BET planned to pay tribute to the late TV host with an airing of the documentary Soul Train: Hippest Trip in America Wednesday at 8/7c.
"We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Don Cornelius. He was a pioneer in the television and music industries and his legacy and influence on American culture will continue to live on for many generations to come. He made Soul Train a destination for lovers of black culture and music and connected the world to our culture and we are forever grateful," said BET Networks Chairman Debra L. Lee.
Check out a clip from an episode of Soul Train: