UPDATE: Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, producers of “The Sound Of Philadelphia” Soul Train theme song, issued the following statement on the passing of Don Cornelius:
“Don Cornelius and his creation of Soul Train and its legacy had a great impact on American culture. Don’s vision allowed for African-American artists to be exposed to people all over the world through the power of television. We were glad to help Don Cornelius fulfill his dream and legacy by creating the theme song for his hit show. The Soul Train and TSOP brands will forever be inseparable. We thank Don Cornelius for his tremendous contributions to the entertainment world. Our deepest sympathy goes out to Don’s family and everyone he touched.”
Don Cornelius, the creator and host of the ground-breaking and iconic music program Soul Train, was found dead this morning of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to TMZ, he was discovered by the police in his Sherman Oaks, CA, home around 4 a.m. and quickly rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Cornelius was 75 years old.
Celebrated for his effortless style and impeccable taste in music, Cornelius was the soul of Soul Train, a program that not only introduced countless R&B, soul and hip-hop artists to a large national audience but also helped to break down racial barriers in television and music. Created in 1971, Soul Train featured performances from a wide array of musicians including Harold Melvin, the Blue Notes, Aretha Franklin, Sly Stone, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC.
In addition to showcasing new artists—many of whom received no airplay on outlets like MTV—the show was also celebrated for its dancers, who brought new dance moves and fashion innovations to a broader audience. Cornelius served as the host of the show until 1993, and the show ran until 2006, though it’s still possible to find episodes in syndication.
Watch a compilation of Cornelius interviewing Micheal Jackson over the the years on Soul Train and a clip of Cornelius dancing down the famous Soul Train dance line: