Listen to Bill's segment about Don Cornelius
Don Cornelius, the smooth-voiced television host who brought black music and culture into America’s living rooms when he created the dance show “Soul Train,” was found dead at his home in Los Angeles early Wednesday in what appeared to be a suicide, the authorities said. He was 75.
Police officers responding to a report of a shooting found Mr. Cornelius’s body at 4 a.m. on the floor of his house on Mulholland Drive with a gunshot wound to the head. It appeared to have been self-inflicted, said Ed Winter, the Los Angeles County assistant chief coroner.
He was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The police said they had ruled out murder and were talking to relatives about Mr. Cornelius’s mental state.
“Soul Train,” one of the longest-running syndicated shows in television history, played a critical role in spreading the music of black America to the world, offering wide exposure to musicians like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson in the 1970s and ’80s.
“ ‘Soul Train’ created an outlet for black artists that never would have been if it hadn’t been for Cornelius,” said Kenny Gamble, who with his partner, Leon Huff, created the Philly soul sound and wrote the theme song for the show. “It was a tremendous export from America to the world, that showed African-American life and the joy of music and dance, and it brought people together.”
News of Mr. Cornelius’s death prompted an outpouring of tributes from civil rights leaders, musicians, entrepreneurs, academics and writers. “He was able to provide the country a window into black youth culture and black music,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. “For young black teenagers like myself, it gave a sense of pride and a sense that the culture we loved could be shared and appreciated nationally.” Read more in the New York Times.