An icon of ’70s television: Don Cornelius, who conceived and hosted the long-running Soul Train, died in Los Angeles early Wednesday morning of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 75. Cornelius’ groundbreaking program, which first aired in the Chicago area and later nationally, was one of the first TV programs that showcased blacks front-and-center, though Cornelius was careful to note that the show emphasized racial diversity. The music show, which focused heavily on dancing in a pre-MTV era, gave such stars as Marvin Gaye and Barry White TV audiences, and later played an important role in building the popularity of hip-hop. His later life was troubled, however: In 2009, he received three years of probation in a spousal abuse case, and reportedly suffered from health problems. His earlier legacy lives on, however: ”I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for ‘Soul Train,’” he said in an interview. Though the show is off the air after a 35-year national run, the empire still exists.
February 1, 2012 // 10:58 // 2 years ago