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Don Cornelius, the longtime host of the nationally syndicated TV program Soul Train, died this morning of an apparent suicide. He was 75.
Soul Train was a showcase for mostly African-American musicians specializing in R&B and soul music. It began to air nationally in the fall of 1971. Although Cornelius was from Chicago, the show became associated with Philly Soul. Indeed, the theme song for Soul Train was “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” which was recorded by MFSB, a group of studio musicians organized by the songwriting duo of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (along with The Three Degrees on vocals.)
Over the years, Soul Train has featured the likes of The Isley Brothers, Kool & The Gang, and Earth, Wind & Fire. From time to time, one might also see an act one might not expect to see such as Elton John or Gino Vannelli. Soul Trainwas known for the Mighty, Mighty Soul Train Dancers who specialized in the Soul Train Line in which Cornelius would participate on rare occasions. But the heart and soul of the show was Cornelius and his low key, smooth voice which you can hear in this conversation with Mariah Carey in 1991.
Cornelius hosted Soul Train until 1993 although he remained behind the scenes until the show went off the air in 2006. He was said to have disliked rap and hip-hop and although Cornelius would book rap and hip-hop acts that it contributed to his decision to stop hosting.
In recent years, Cornelius was in poor health, had been arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence, mired in a messy divorce and these may have been factors in deciding to take his own life.
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