Don Cornelius, the founder and host of revered music show Soul Train, was found dead in Los Angeles this morning of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The 75-year-old was found around 4 a.m., with authorities stating there was no sign of foul play.
Cornelius began his career as a journalist, but is best known as the creator and host of Soul Train, the popular and influential show that ran from 1971-2006. The show was the first to bring soul, funk and disco to a nationally televised audience and introduced countless superstars to the masses; its list of guest stars a who's who of the past 40 years of music.
When it started in 1971, the show gave African American teenagers their first chance to see their favorite artists on television before becoming one of the country's biggest musical variety shows. Hard as it is to imagine, but names like James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield don’t just become legends; it was shows like Soul Train that gave them a national platform for their music.
In a 2010 interview with the L.A. Times, Cornelius discussed the show’s impact. “That was the period when soul music grew up,” he said. “When we started, we were the only program that a certain genre of artist could get exposure on.”
The impresario hosted the show until 1993, with the show itself ending in 2006. In recent years, Cornelius extended the show’s brand with events like the Soul Train Music Awards, produced annually since 1987.
Cornelius' baritone voice, smooth demeanor and impeccable fashion became cornerstones of the show, with the host's sign-off, "As always in parting, we wish you love, peace... and SOUL!" becoming a national catchphrase.
Discover—or relive—your favorite Soul Train moments in the video below and in our 10 Favorite Soul Train Moments. Let us know your favorite memories of Don and the show in the comments below.