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'Soul Train' creator Don Cornelius' death inquiry could take days

February 1, 2012 | 10:21 am


Officials said it probably will take several days to make a final determination about the death of "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius.

Law enforcement sources said they believe he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. But they stressed it will take days to fully investigate, including interviewing friends and family and examining evidence in his Sherman Oaks home, where he was found Wednesday morning.

The L.A. Police Department and L.A. County coroner's office are investigating.

PHOTOS: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

A family member of Cornelius arrived at his Mulholland Drive home in Encino on Wednesday morning and found the "Soul Train" creator with a gunshot wound to the head, authorities said.

He was rushed to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to law enforcement sources.

He was 75 and recently had gone through a divorce.

Quincy Jones released a statement to the Associated Press saying: "I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius. Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business.

"Before MTV, there was "Soul Train," that will be [his] great legacy.… His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched. My heart goes out to Don's family and loved ones."

In a 2010 interview with The Times, he said he was excited about a movie project he was developing about "Soul Train."

VIDEO: Soul Train

"We've been in discussions with several people about getting a movie off the ground. It wouldn't be the 'Soul Train' dance show, it would be more of a biographical look at the project," he said. "It's going to be about some of the things that really happened on the show."

According to The Times Hollywood Walk of Fame database, Cornelius’ “Soul Train” became the longest-running first-run nationally syndicated show in television history, bringing African American music and style to the world for 35 years.

Inspired by “American Bandstand,” he devised a similar program spotlighting black music and introduced it on the Chicago UHF station WCIU in 1970. It was syndicated in 1971, and Cornelius soon moved the production to Hollywood. Cornelius was the deep-voiced host, and in addition to major black artists, the show also attracted such R&B-leaning rock performers as David Bowie and Robert Palmer.

Cornelius stopped hosting the show in 1993, and “Soul Train” ceased production in 2006.


PHOTOS: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

'Soul Train' creator Don Cornelius dead in apparent suicide 

Remembering Don Cornelius: 'Soul Train' creator defined an era

-- Andrew Blankstein