Record producer Don Cornelius, the creator of the long-running syndicated TV show Soul Train, shot himself in the head Wednesday at his home in the hills of Studio City and was pronounced dead at a hospital, authorities said. He was 75.
Los Angeles police Officer Tenesha Dobine said the shooting occurred at about 4 a.m. in the 12600 block of Mulholland Drive. Cornelius died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said LAPD Officer Sara Faden. (Wire reports and other news outlets reported the home was located in Sherman Oaks, but the home is within the boundaries of Studio City.)
"Detectives have determined that there is no evidence of foul play, and that Mr. Cornelius died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound," said LAPD Officer Bruce Borihanh.
"The death was reported as a suicide, a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head," said coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter. Cornelius was pronounced dead at 4:56 a.m., Winter said.
Flowers were to be placed at 1 p.m. Wednesday on Cornelius' star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Blvd., near the corner of La Brea Avenue. Cornelius was the creator of the TV music show Soul Train, which ran for more than 30 years.
"I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius," record producer Quincy Jones said in a statement.
"Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business," Jones said. "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."
Also reacting to the death of Cornelius was the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
"I am shocked and stunned to hear this news," Jackson told radio station KNX 1070 this morning. "I talked with Don a few days ago. ... So many artists got their access to television through Don. He was a transformer..."
Cornelius was born in Chicago on Sept. 27, 1936, and grew up on the city's South Side. A Chicago police officer in the mid-1960s, he once pulled over radio personality Ed Cobb, who was so impressed with Cornelius' voice that he invited him to his station. Cornelius made a demo tape and was hired as an announcer on WVON.
In 1971, Cornelius launched Soul Train, which went on to become one of TV's longest-running syndicated programs. He stopped hosting Soul Train in 1993. The show ceased production in 2006.
In 2011, former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson became chairman of Vibe Holdings, which owns Vibe magazine and the rights to Soul Train.
"Don Cornelius was a pioneer & a trailblazer," Johnson wrote on his Twitter page Wednesday. "He was the first African-American to create, produce, host & more importantly OWN his own show. Soul Train taught the world how to dance! I thank him for trusting me with his Soul Train brand and I will carry on his legacy through it. Don's contribution to us all is immeasurable. My condolences to his son & my good friend Tony Cornelius & the entire Cornelius family."
Cornelius was sentenced to three years' probation in 2009 after pleading no contest to spousal battery, according to published reports. In divorce papers filed that year in Los Angeles County Superior Court, he reportedly stated, "I am 72 years old. I have significant health issues. I want to finalize this divorce before I die."