Don Cornelius, 75, was found dead Wednesday at his Mulholland Drive home in Encino, Calif. The “Soul Train” host apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police say there was no sign of foul play, but are still investigating his death.
It was not immediately known why Cornelius desired to take his own life, although the TV icon was said to have been suffering from very bad health in recent years.
Cornelius, who launched “Soul Train” in Chicago in the early 1970s and hosted it for 23 years, told a judge in his 2009 divorce that he was suffering from significant health issues and wanted the case settled quickly.
Soul Train, which ran until 2006, became a significant part of U.S. pop culture history. The successful dance series boosted the careers of big name entertainers like the Jackson Five and James Brown. It eventually became the longest running U.S. series in first-run syndication.
Tributes began pouring out quickly as news of the death of Don Cornelius began to spread across media outlets.
Aretha Franklin, who appeared on the dance and TV show, called his death “sad, stunning and downright shocking and a huge and momentous loss to the African-American community and the world at large.”
Famous composer and record producer Quincy Jones said he was “deeply saddened” at the sudden passing of his friend, colleague and business partner.