Don Cornelius, who created and hosted the groundbreaking television show "Soul Train" has died of an apparent suicide. He was 75 years old.
Police say Cornelius shot himself in the head in his Los Angeles home early Wednesday morning.
Cornelius had fallen on hard times in recent years. He had battled health issues, and in 2009 he was sentenced to three years probation for spousal abuse amid an ugly divorce battle.
“I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden death of my friend, colleague and business partner,” said producer Quincy Jones. “Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business. Before MTV, there was ‘Soul Train.’ That will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius.”
Cornelius started "Soul Train" at a local Chicago station in 1970 because there were no TV shows geared towards black people.
"There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity," he said in 2006. "I'm trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them."
The show was syndicated nationally the following year and ran until 2007. Cornelius stepped down as host in 1993.
Virtually every prominent black musician passed through the "Soul Train" studios over the years, giving them the national exposure they could not get elsewhere, especially in the early years.
“He brought soul music and dance to the world in a way that it had never been shown, and he was a cultural game changer on a global level,” Al Sharpton told the New York Daily News. “Had it not been for Don Cornelius, we would not have ever transcended from the ‘Chitlin circuit’ to become mainstream cultural trendsetters.”