Los Angeles - Don Cornelius, creator of the long-running and pioneering TV dance show Soul Train, shot himself to death on Wednesday morning at his home, police said. He was 75.
An officer responding to a report of a shooting found Cornelius at his Mulholland Drive home at around 04:00, police said.
He was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 04:56 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, said Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter.
Soul Train was one of the first US shows to showcase African-Americans prominently, and it introduced television audiences to such legendary artists as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Barry White.
The show began in Chicago as a local programme in 1970 and aired nationally from 1971 to 2006, bringing the best rhythm & blues, soul and later hip-hop acts to TV and having teenagers dance to them. Cornelius was the first host and executive producer.
"There was not programming that targeted any particular ethnicity," Cornelius said in 2006, then added: "I'm trying to use euphemisms here, trying to avoid saying there was no television for black folks, which they knew was for them."
Cornelius, who was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, said in 2006 he remained grateful to the musicians who made Soul Train the destination for the best and latest in black music.
"I figured as long as the music stayed hot and important and good, that there would always be a reason for Soul Train," Cornelius said.
He stepped down as Soul Train host in 1993.
The Soul Train Awards Cornelius founded will return to the air after a two-year hiatus to recognize those who helped shape R&B music.
Record executive Antonio "LA" Reid, singers Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, Chaka Khan and Charlie Wilson will be honoured on the two-hour music special scheduled to air November 29. Actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard will co-host the awards.