Don Cornelius, the man who created the 1970s hit Soul Train, was found dead in his home in Sherman Oaks on Wednesday, EW has confirmed. Cornelius, who hosted the show between 1971 and 1993, died of an apparent suicide via a gunshot wound. He was 75. The Los Angeles Police Department tells EW that an investigation surrounding his death is ongoing, but there are no signs of foul play.
Cornelius was well known for his catchphrase that would end each episode of Soul Train: “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.” Soul Train continues to be a force in pop culture: Not only is it often referenced in movies and TV shows, but the Soul Train Music Awards still runs on an annual basis. (And just two years ago, Vh1 ran a Soul Train documentary, which focused on the show and its influence, and The Best of Soul Train was released commemorating the show’s 40th anniversary.)
Aretha Franklin issued a statement about Cornelius’ influence on music: “Don Cornelius! It’s so shocking and stunning. God bless him. He created a solid and broad foundation for young people and adults alike to socialize, dance and have good clean fun. He united the young adult community single-handedly and globally. With the inception of Soul Train, a young, progressive brother set the pace and worldwide standard for young aspiring African American men and entrepreneurs in TV – out of Chicago. He transcended cultural barriers among young adults. They became one. Everybody loved Soul Train and appreciated Don!”
Kenard Gibbs, Soul Train CEO, also issued a statement following Cornelius’ death: “We are overwhelmed with the news regarding the passing of Don Cornelius. Our deepest sympathy and thoughts are with his family at this time. He was a true television visionary and his contributions to African American culture, music, and entertainment are incomparable. The outpouring of affection and tributes to his legacy are a true testament to the profound impact that his life’s work had on many generations.”
In recent years, Cornelius has run into some legal problems: In 2008, the host was charged with spousal battery and assault with a deadly weapon. In 2009, he was placed on three years probation.