According to USA Today Don was found dead in his Sherman Oaks, Calif., home Wednesday morning. He was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 4:56 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according the Los Angeles County coroner's office.
"I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius," said Quincy Jones in a statement. "Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business. Before MTV, there was Soul Train, that will be (his) great legacy. … 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."
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he was shocked and grief-stricken.
"I have known him since I was 19 years old and James Brown had me speak on Soul Train," Sharpton said in a statement from New York. "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."
Cornelius developed his brainchild while working as a journalist and DJ in Chicago. Soul Train started in 1970 as a daily afterschool dance show on WCIU and it was supported by such local acts as Curtis Mayfield and The Chi-Lites. The show was sponsored by Johnson Products, makers of Afro Sheen, and with owner George Johnson's help, Cornelius was able to move production to Los Angeles for the weekly syndicated show that premiered in 1971. Stations skeptical of the unproven series were won over when Gladys Knight agreed to do the pilot. Other artists were quick to jump on board.
Cornelius would host the show until 1993. The Train stayed on the tracks for another 13 years with assorted hosts. By the time he sold it to MadVision Entertainment in 2008, he had created an empire that included the Soul Train Music Awards and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards.