David Soul, one half of TV’s ‘Starsky & Hutch,’ dies at 80

David Soul, the actor who brought the cool detective Ken Hutchinson to life in the popular 1970s TV series “Starsky & Hutch,” has died. He was 80.

In a Friday statement to The Times, the actor and director’s family confirmed that Soul died Thursday “after a valiant battle for life in the loving company of family.”

Additional details , including a cause of death, were not immediately available.

“He shared many extraordinary gifts in the world as actor, singer, storyteller, creative artist and dear friend,” the statement said. “His smile, laughter and passion for life will be remembered by the many whose lives he has touched.”

Two men in 1970s clothing sit side by side on the hoods of cars

David Soul, left, portrayed Ken Hutchinson and Paul Michael Glaser was David Starsky in the ABC crime drama “Starsky & Hutch.”

(ABC Photo Archives / Disney General Entertainment Co.)

Before the days of modern network procedurals such as Fox’s “9-1-1” and ABC’s “The Rookie,” Soul and co-star Paul Michael Glaser helped thrust a suave spin on law enforcement into prime time. From 1975 to 1979, detectives Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Soul) and Dave Starsky (Glaser) patrolled the fictional streets of Bay City, Calif., in their bright red-and-white Ford Gran Torino and channeled their street savvy to investigate a variety of crimes.

“Starsky & Hutch” showcased a brotherly chemistry between its stars — one that Soul told The Times in 2004 was “instinctive” from the beginning of the show.

“It deepened over the years. I knew where [Glaser] was all the time, and he knew where I was most of the time!” he said.

Soul, born David Solberg in Chicago on Aug. 28, 1943, appeared in “Starsky & Hutch” after brief stints on “Star Trek” and “I Dream of Jeannie,” and a leading role in “Here Come the Brides” on ABC.

Between his most popular TV series, Soul got a taste of embodying law enforcement as Officer John Davis in Ted Post’s 1973 film “Magnum Force,” starring Clint Eastwood. Soul’s performance won over producer Aaron Spelling, an executive producer for “Starsky & Hutch.”

Despite multiple network shows and films under his belt, Soul was interested in more than just acting. He got his start with multiple singing appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1965, according to a biography on his website.

As “The Covered Man,” Soul wore a mask and told audiences, “My name is David Soul and I want to be known for my music.” After his act received an underwhelming reception, Soul did away with the mask and continued his semiregular performances on “Merv Griffin,” laying the groundwork for his Hollywood career. He continued to pursue music well into the 1970s, releasing the songs “Don’t Give Up on Us” and “Going in With My Eyes Open.”

Soul was an alumnus of Columbia and Screen Gems’ New Talent Program, which sought to nurture up-and-coming artists. The actor’s rise to popularity coincided with the Vietnam War and the antiwar movement, the latter of which he strongly supported.

After the talent program came to an end, Soul busied himself with various television series, including the 1970s drama “Dan August,” beloved Norman Lear sitcom “All in the Family” and crime drama “Perry Mason.”

When “Starsky & Hutch” concluded after 92 episodes in 1979, he continued his small-screen career with several TV movies. Four years later, Soul was back on the episodic track with a lead role in “The Yellow Rose,” also starring Sam Elliott and Cybill Shepherd.

Additional television credits include “Murder, She Wrote,” “Unsub” and “Sandra, the Rebel Princess.”

After his “Starsky & Hutch” heyday, Soul made headlines for his personal life, which included several divorces, allegations of abuse against an ex-wife and a battle with addiction. In 1985, the actor and his brother were arrested in Pittsburgh for protesting steel industry layoffs.

By the mid-’90s, Soul left Hollywood to pursue acting opportunities in New Zealand and Australia. In 1994, he moved to Paris, where he starred in several miniseries. He continued hi s entertainment career in London, appearing in theater productions of “The Aspern Papers,” “Anything Goes” and “Jerry Springer — The Opera.”

“Starksy & Hutch” returned to Soul’s life in 2004 with director Todd Phillips’ comedy film of the same name. The movie starred Ben Stiller as Starsky and Owen Wilson as Hutch. Soul, Glaser and the iconic Gran Torino made brief cameos in the film.

Soul also was a director whose credits included several episodes of “Starsky & Hutch,” the TV series “Miami Vice” and “In the Heat of the Night” and the documentary film “The Fighting Ministers.” Before his death, Soul was developing several documentary projects.

“I’ve been around now for a long time and I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve managed to hang in there,” he told Entertainment Tonight in 2002.

The actor was the son of history and political science professor Dr. Richard Solberg and spent his childhood living between postwar Berlin and Sioux Falls, S.D.

Soul was an animal rights activist and called London his home, his website said. He was married to Helen Snell-Soul and had six children from previous marriages. He had seven grandchildren.