Soul Train Creator Don Cornelius Dead of Apparent Suicide

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 1, 2012 2:56PM

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Don Cornelius (Photo Courtesy of Soul Train Holdings LLC)
TMZ broke news a few moments ago that Soul Train creator and host Don Cornelius died in an apparent suicide.

TMZ's sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing, said Mr. Cornelius's body was found in Sherman Oaks, CA home around 4 a.m. Pacific time, with a gunshot wound to his head. The sources say there were no signs of foul play.

Mr. Cornelius was a backup DJ and news reader at WVON-AM in Chicago and was producing concerts at local high schools called "The Soul Train" when WCIU-TV took notice of the success Cornelius was having with the traveling caravans and offered him an opportunity to create an African American version of American Bandstand.

Soul Train debuted on WCIU in 1970, airing weekday afternoons and proved to be so successful it was soon syndicated across the country from Los Angeles in 1971. Soul Train aired until 2006 and, at its peak, captured the best in black fashion, music and culture and served as a tastemaker for African Americans across the nation.

Last year the City of Chicago honored Mr. Cornelius on the 40th anniversary of Soul Train's syndication with an exhibit of rare photography from the show, a free screening of the documentary Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America, and an anniversary concert in Chicago's Millennium Park. Mr. Cornelius had a local holiday declared in his honor and the stretch of Halsted Street where WCIU's studios are located in the West Loop were granted honorary designation as "Don Cornelius Way."

We'll have more on this story as it develops.