Don Cornelius wasn't the Godfather of Soul. That title belonged to the late James Brown, who was a frequent guest on the show.
But, according to the Soul Train host's friends and colleagues, Cornelius perhaps more than anyone else was responsible for putting soul on the pop-culture map in two decades-plus hosting his popular nationally syndicated music program.
Those same folks are now mourning the loss of the Soul Train mastermind, who was found dead at age 75 from an apparent suicide early this morning. Here's what they had to say...
"Don Cornelius! It's so shocking and stunning. God bless him," said Aretha Franklin. "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...Everybody loved Soul Train and appreciated Don!"
"I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague, and business partner Don Cornelius," music icon Quincy Jones told E! News. "Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business."
The Chicago-born music producer, in fact, respected the former enough to name a special honor at The Soul Train Music Awards after him—the Quincy Jones Award for Career Achievement. Past winners include Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Jamie Foxx, Destiny's Child and Ice Cube among others, cementing Cornelius' titanic influence on the music biz.
Continued Jones: "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. My heart goes out to Don's family and loved ones."
Stevie Wonder told CNN by phone today that he was "shocked" and "heartbroken" to hear the news of Cornelius' death.
"The first time I ever did 'Superstition' was on his show so it's a sad moment," said the funk-soul pioneer. "The two shows that I watched American Bandstand and Soul Train so it's a heartbreak for everyone. Everyone of various ethnicities watched Soul Train…so it was a great thing."
Arsenio Hall, who made several appearances on Soul Train, expressed similar sentiments.
"Since the year I landed in this town…he has been one of my 'Hollywood mentors'…and loyal FRIEND!" the comic actor and erstwhile talk show host told E! News "There is NO soul in my bowl this morning!"
Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who as chairman of Soul Train holdings was a business partner of Cornelius, paid tribute to him as "an innovator and trailblazer."
"He was the first African-American to create, produce, host and more importantly OWN his own television show," the NBA great said via his publicist. "Every Saturday morning I looked forward to watching Soul Train, as did millions of other people. Soul Train taught the world how to dance!"
Former Soul Train host and current Criminal Minds star Shemar Moore had this to say in a statement to E! News: "My heart is heavy after hearing the news of Don's passing...I am truly sorry that such an iconic man has left us too soon. Don Cornelius was responsible for a show that revolutionized the music industry, introduced the world to many of the biggest superstars of music, showed generation after generation over 40 years how to keep it funky and get your groove on every Saturday morning."
While Dorian Gregory, the fourth and final Soul Train emcee before the show ended production in 2006, told E!: "Don's vitality and commitment to perfection was as fresh as ever. It was an honor to have known and worked for him... He brought a joy and happiness that we all looked forward to connecting with every week."
Stars also took to Twitter to pay tribute.
"It meant more to me to perform on
#SoulTrain than to win a Grammy .. Loved U So Much Don," tweeted MC Hammer, who early in his career was a dancer on Soul Train before becoming a rap star. "Thank U RIP #DonCornelius.
"Ahhhh don cornelius, i loved that guy, so much great music i saw through him R.I.P. bless his soul," remembered Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea.
"Don Cornelius profoundly changed me. RIP, Don, & thank you," commented Pee Wee Herman.
"RIP Don Cornelius! Thank you for creating a platform which helped uplift me throughout my childhood!" opined actor Omar Epps.
"Sad to hear of passing of Don Cornelius, creator of Soul Train. He was a super nice man. Had many nice talks w/ him at the golf range. RIP," offered Saturday Night Live alum Jon Lovitz.
Love, peace and soul, Don C. You'll be missed.
—Additional Reporting by Sharareh Drury