'Soul Train' creator Don Cornelius dies in Sherman Oaks (photos and videos)

Damian Dovarganes

Don Cornelius in an AP file photo in 2006.

19th Annual Soul Train Music Awards - Arrivals

Vince Bucci/Getty Images

R&B performer Usher and Soul Train producer Don Cornelius arrive at the 19th Annual Soul Train Music Awards at Paramount Studios on Feb.28, 2005, in Los Angeles.

2005 TV Land Awards - Show

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Performers Mya, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Ashanti stand beside Don Cornelius at the 2005 TV Land Awards show.

Don Cornelius Wreath

Brian Watt

A wreath on the Hollywood Walk of Fame star of Don Cornelius.


"Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius shot himself to death at his Sherman Oaks home Wednesday morning, multiple outlets are reporting. He was 75.

Police were called to the scene of a shooting at Cornelius' home at 12685 Mulholland Drive shortly before 4 a.m. They found Cornelius, who was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 4:56 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter.

Friend and business partner Quincy Jones said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" at the death of Cornelius. He called him"a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business."

The 30-year-plus-long "Soul Train" began in 1970 in Chicago on WCIU-TV as a local program and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006.

It introduced television audiences to such legendary artists as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Barry White and brought the best R&B, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV and had teenagers dance to them:

It was one of the first shows to showcase African-Americans prominently, although the dance group was racially mixed. Cornelius was the first host and executive producer.

"There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity," he said in 2006, then added: "I'm trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them."

Cornelius, who was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said in 2006 he remained grateful to the musicians who made "Soul Train" the destination for the best and latest in black music.

"I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for 'Soul Train,'" Cornelius said.

The show drew a younger crowd curious about the music, fashion and dance trends of the time. In this classic clip of the show, Cornelius introduces Gladys Knight & The Pips performing "Friendship Train":

The series spawned a franchise that includes the Soul Train Music Awards, the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards and the Soul Train Christmas Starfest.

Cornelius stepped down as "Soul Train" host in 1993.

In his later years, Cornelius had a troubled marriage. In 2009, he was sentenced to three years' probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor spousal battery. In his divorce case that year, he also mentioned having significant health issues.

Audio: KPCC's Brian Watt with more.

This story has been updated.

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