‘Soul Train’ creator Don Cornelius was found dead in his California home this morning.
According to the Los Angeles Times, police arrived at Cornelius’ Sherman Oaks home around 4am where he was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 75.
A radio news announcer by trade, Cornelius began moonlighting at WCIU-TV, and wanted to create an African American version of American Bandstand, Dick Clark’s influential music show, with live dancing five days a week. On August 17, 1970, the first episode of Soul Train premiered on the station, and by the next year, it was being syndicated in other markets. The show became one of the longest-running shows of its kind, airing from 1971 through 2006. Cornelius held down the hosting duties for most of that run, before stepping down in 1993. Cornelius remained as its executive producer and expanded the brand into an annual awards show.
Cornelius told the Los Angeles Times recently that there were early plans to create a movie based on the franchise. “We’ve been in discussions with several people about getting a movie off the ground,” he said. “It wouldn’t be the ‘Soul Train’ dance show, it would be more of a biographical look at the project. It’s going to be about some of the things that really happened on the show.”
In 2008, Cornelius was arrested and charged with spousal battery and dissuading a witness from making a police report, and assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to three years probation.
During his rocky divorce battle to ex-wife, Viktoria, TMZ reported that the former Chicago disc jockey made the following morbid request within the former couple’s divorce papers; “I am 72 years old. I have significant health issues. I want to finalize this divorce before I die.”
Cornelius is survived by two sons, Anthony and Raymond.