- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 1, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Don Cornelius, the silken-voiced host of TV’s “Soul Train” who helped break down racial barriers and broaden the reach of black culture with funky music, groovy dance steps and cutting-edge style, died early Wednesday of an apparent suicide. He was 75.

Police responding to a report of a shooting found Cornelius at his Mulholland Drive home around 4 a.m. He was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound about an hour later at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, according to the coroner’s office.

A police cruiser sat parked at the entryway of Cornelius‘ home on a two-lane stretch of Mulholland Drive in the hills above Los Angeles as detectives searched inside. News cameras camped outside as drivers on their morning commute drove by.

Police Officer Sara Faden said authorities have ruled out foul play. Detectives have not found a suicide note and are talking to relatives about his mental state.

His death prompted many to speak of the positive influence he and his show had on pop culture, music and the black community.

“God bless him for the solid good and wholesome foundation he provided for young adults worldwide and the unity and brotherhood he singlehandedly brought about with his most memorable creation of 'Soul Train,'” said Aretha Franklin, an early performer on the show.

Franklin called Cornelius “an American treasure.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson told KNX-Los Angeles that Cornelius “was a transformer.”

'Soul Train' became the outlet for African-Americans,” Jackson said, adding that he talked to Cornelius a few days ago and there were no signs Cornelius was upset.

Others also expressed their grief.

“I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius,” Quincy Jones said. “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,” he said. “My heart goes out to Don’s family and loved ones.”

Clarence Avant, former chairman of Motown Records, said, “Don Cornelius‘ legacy to music, especially black music, will be forever cemented in history. 'Soul Train' was the first and only television show to showcase and put a spotlight on black artists at a time when there were few African-Americans on television at all, and that was the great vision of Don.”

“Soul Train” began in 1970 in Chicago on WCIU-TV as a local program and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006.

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