The creator, producer and host of the legendary TV show Soul Train, Don Cornelius, was found dead in his Sherman Oaks home early Wednesday morning, TMZ reports. He was 75.
Cornelius, who hosted the iconic hit dance/music show for an incredible 22 years from 1971-1993, was found dead by law enforcement around 4 a.m. of a gun shot wound to the head, which they believe was self-inflicted.
Cornelius helped launch the careers of dozens of celebrities who got their start on Soul Train, which holds the record for being the longest, continuously running first-run syndicated program in television history for 35 years and over 1,100 episodes since its debut.
The show was famous for introducing new music and debuting new dance styles to the viewers. Just some of the big name celebrities who started as dancers on the program include Rosie Perez, Carmen Electra, Nick Cannon, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]MC Hammer[/lastfm], Jermaine Stewart, Fred “Rerun” Berry, Laurieann Gibson, Pebbles, and NFL legend Walter Payton.
Cornelius was also famous for his catchphrase at the end of each show “… and you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”
Sources say he was in poor health over the past few years. The story is still developing with more details to come.
TMZ reports that one of Don’s two sons placed the 911 call at 4 a.m. and paramedics arrived to his house immediately. Don was transported to the hospital where he pronounced dead on arrival.
Don’s friend and lawyer commented, “This is devastating news. Don was a kind, funny and brilliant man. Even though his many health battles had left him frail, he remained vibrant, courtly and always sharp as a tack.”