Soul Train creator Don Cornelius was found dead inside his Mulholland Drive home Wednesday morning, having passed away at the age of 75. The cause of death was an apparently self-afflicted gunshot wound to the head. There were no signs of foul play, though Los Angeles detectives are currently investigating the scene.
Don Cornelius was a man of many trades before becoming the host of South Chicago's biggest dance party. He held down work as an insurance salesman, a TV newsman and a deejay before approaching his station manager at WCIU-TV about a televised dance showcase, which would go onto reach national popularity.
Launched on the cheap, Soul Train debuted in 1970 with low expectations. It soon became an alternative to New American Bandstand, giving young African-Americans something they could watch after school. The daily series became a showcase for R&B acts neglected by other television programs of the time. And it served as a gathering hub where one could learn all the latest and hippest dance moves.
Michael Jackson was a noted fan, and stole his signature Moonwalk from one of the regular dancers on the show. Other notable alumni include Rosie Perez, Jody Watley, and M.C. Hammer. In 1971, Soul Train went into national syndication, and became a ratings hit because of Don Cornelius and his insight into cultural fads.
Don Cornelius left the show in 1993, and it continued until 2006 without him. He continued on as executive producer of the Soul Train music awards, which he oversaw from 1988 to 2007. He also starred in three movies throughout his career, including 1976's Fred Williamson action drama No Way Back, the Meat Loaf musical comedy Roadie, and the 1988 John Cusack/Tim Robbins cult comedy Tapeheads.
Don Cornelius is survived by two ex-wives, and two children.