The world is a little less soulful and a little less train-y today now that Don Cornelius, the host and creator of Soul Train, is dead of an apparent suicide. Cornelius was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in his Los Angeles home early this morning, after police responded to a report that shots had been fired in the neighborhood. He was seventy-five years old.
One of the longest-running syndicated programs in American TV history, Soul Train, which Spike Lee once called "an urban music time capsule," was created by Cornelius in 1970 as a soul counterpart to American Bandstand. Cornelius, a former radio deejay, conceived the program as a response to a general lack of television programming geared at the African-American community, and Soul Train is often credited with introducing Americans to soul music, providing worldwide exposure to artists like James Brown and Aretha Franklin. Cornelius stepped down from hosting duties in 1993, although he remained executive producer until the end of the show's run, ultimately turning the franchise into an annual awards show.
After Soul Train ended in 2006, Cornelius toyed with the idea of developing a film based on the show, telling the L.A. Times in 2010 that the film would be "a biographical look at the project… about some of the things that really happened on the show." He is survived by his two sons.
So goodbye, Don Cornelius. I didn't know who you were until my dad sent me an e-mail today about your passing and what you meant to Jewish kids in the 1970s, but the YouTube clips I've been watching all morning reveal that you were a major BAMF, so I get what he was talking about. To quote your Soul Train signoff: as always in parting, we wish you love, peace, and soul.