Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Soul Train' Host, Creator Dies in L.A

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Soul Train' Host, Creator Dies in L.A

Article excerpt

Don Cornelius, creator and host of "Soul Train," a milestone in television programming that introduced generations of viewers to new music and dance trends emerging from black America, died Wednesday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Los Angeles, according to police. He was 75.

Police responded to a report of a shooting at Mr. Cornelius' house at about 4 a.m., and he was pronounced dead at a hospital. Police ruled out foul play in the death and said a search of the house did not turn up a suicide note.

"Soul Train," which aired for more than 35 years, was the longest first-run syndicated television series in broadcast history. In addition to its cultural importance, with regular appearances by such musical giants as Michael Jackson, James Brown and Aretha Franklin, the show represented a major advance in entertainment for African-Americans.

Recognizing that the major TV networks had virtually no programs geared toward black audiences in 1970, Mr. Cornelius designed "Soul Train" as what he called "a black 'American Bandstand.'"

As the show's host, he promised -- in a burnished baritone voice - - to take viewers on "the hippest trip in America." He drew dozens of star headliners to "Soul Train," but Mr. Cornelius' greater achievement might have been as a behind-the-scenes producer and businessman who helped persuade mainstream companies to spend advertising dollars on largely black audiences.

"Most of what we get credit for is people saying, 'I learned how to dance from watching "Soul Train" back in the day,' " Mr. Cornelius told Vibe magazine in 2006. "But what I take credit for is that there were no black television commercials to speak of before 'Soul Train.' There were few black faces in those ads before 'Soul Train.' And what I am most proud of is that we made television history."

Mr. Cornelius later launched a record company and a series of awards shows and was recognized, along with Quincy Jones and Berry Gordy, as one of the most influential African-Americans in the music business. …

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