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'Soul Train' Creator Don Cornelius Found Dead in Apparent Suicide

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Don Cornelius, the man who created Soul Train, was found dead Wednesday morning at his Los Angeles home of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Los Angeles County Assistant Medical Examiner Ed Winter confirms, "The death was reported as a suicide, a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."  Cornelius was 75.

Cornelius created Soul Train and hosted the show in national syndication from 1971 to 1993.  It was the first real venue on American TV for soul music, and as the show's writer and producer, as well as host, Cornelius played a vital role in bringing stars like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson to a wider audience.  Some have described the show as "a black American Bandstand," though Cornelius was not a fan of that comparison.  As the host, he was known for the catchphrase with which he closed each episode: "I'm Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!"

Soul Train, which ceased airing in 2006, also spun off the Soul Train Music Awards and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards.   Its most famous theme song, "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)," by MFSB became a massive pop hit in 1974.  

Legendary producer, artist and longtime friend Quincy Jones issued a statement in reaction to Cornelius' passing, declaring, "I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius.  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."

Famous fans took to Twitter after the news broke to pay tribute to Cornelius. “RIP Don Cornelius #legend,” actress Holly Robinson Peete tweeted. Wyclef Jean wrote, “JUST WOKE UP TO SOME SAD NEWS , R.I.P. Don Cornelius founder of SOUL TRAIN,” while hip-hop artist Talib Kweli tweeted, “RIP the legend Don Cornelius.  Soul Train was a huge part of my Saturday mornings growing up.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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