'Soul Train' Creator Don Cornelius Death: Hollywood, Music Industry Remembers

Don Cornelius - H 2012
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Don Cornelius - H 2012

UPDATED: The late TV programming innovator is mourned by friends and colleagues in the entertainment industry.

Don Cornelius' death on Wednesday of an apparent suicide is sending shockwaves of sadness throughout Hollywood.

Cornelius, who created the iconic and groundbreaking TV dance party Soul Train, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told THR. The 75-year-old's body was found early Wednesday at his Encino home on Mulholland Drive, and he was shortly pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai hospital.

"Don Cornelius and his creation of Soul Train and its legacy had a great impact on American culture," said soul-music producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in a statement to THR. "Don's vision allowed for African-American artists to be exposed to people all over the world through the power of television."

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Added the duo, who wrote the Soul Train theme "TSOP: The Sound of Philadelphia": "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' brangs 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."

Quincy Jones echoed that sentiment.

"I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague and business partner Don Cornelius," the veteran music producer said in a statement to The Associated Press. "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. His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched. My heart goes out to Don’s family and loved ones."

Aretha Franklin, who performed on Soul Train before she was a household name, said: "God bless him for the solid good and wholesome foundation he provided for young adults worldwide, and the unity and brotherhood he singlehandedly brought about with his most memorable creation of 'Soul Train.'"

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In a radio interview with KNX-Los Angeles, the Rev. Jesse Jackson called Cornelius a "transformer," saying: "Soul Train became the outlet for African-Americans." The TV pundit said he had spoken with Cornelius several days ago, and did not notice any signs of strife.

Word reverberated throughout Twitter, with former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash responding: "Really sorry to hear the news about Don Cornelius. He was quite the maverick in his time. Soul Train had a tremendous impact. Sad."

Actor-comedian Kel Mitchell tweeted: "R.I.P. Don Cornelius and God bless his family! Don moved on the vision God gave him and Soul train made television history!Love Peace & Soul."

Marlon Wayans also chimed in on the micro-blogging website, writing: "A legend, a pioneer, a genius. In your immortal words 'love peace & soul' make God boogie."

"Don Cornelius was an early Black TV entrepreneur/businessman. Soul Train was a pivotal show...and amazing asset," tweeted BET chief Stephen Hill.

"Without Soul Train, 106 & Park doesn't exist. Without the Soul Train Awards, The BET Awards doesn't exist," Hill added.