Sioux Falls native David Soul of ‘Starsky and Hutch’ fame has died – Sioux Falls Live

Editor’s Note: In November of 2018, Forum columnist Curt Eriksmoen wrote a two-part series on David Soul. The following story contains content from those stories along with updated news on Soul’s death.

David Soul, who was best known for playing Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchison on ABC’s “Starsky and Hutch” from 1975 to 1979 has died at the age of 80 and while he reached the height of his fame as TV cop in the 1970s, people in North Dakota first knew him as a handsome blonde blue-eyed cowboy singer in the Medora Musical.

His wife Helen Snell announced the death from their home in London.

“David Soul – beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother – died yesterday after a valiant battle for life in the loving company of family. He shared many extraordinary gifts in the world as actor, singer, storyteller, creative artist and dear friend. His smile, laughter and passion for life will be remembered by the many whose lives he has touched.”

Soul learned much of his craft while growing up in South Dakota, going to school in Minnesota and performing in North Dakota.

David Soul was born David Richard Solberg on Aug. 28, 1943, in Chicago, to June (Nelson) and Richard Solberg. A well-known Lutheran scholar, teacher and pastor, Richard moved his family to Sioux Falls in 1945, where he was employed as a history and political science instructor at Augustana College. Because of the end of World War II, Richard was also employed as the religious affairs adviser for the U.S. Military Government and the U.S. High Commission in Germany and during the summers, the entire Solberg family often joined him there.

In Sioux Falls, David became involved in school and church activities, and he soon demonstrated talent in music, acting and sports. While in the fourth grade, his performance as a leprechaun drew praise in the local newspaper. One of the people who noticed David’s acting ability was Earl Mundt, the theater director at Augustana College.

Did this baby-faced high school senior really become a sexy ’70s TV cop?

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David Soul was born David Solberg. This is his senior photo from Sioux Falls’ Washington High School yearbook in 1961.

Washington High School Yearbook/1961/via e-yearbook

Mundt was born in Epping, North Dakota, and taught music and theater in Steele and Grafton before taking over the directing duties at Augustana. He also directed the local theater productions in Sioux Falls, and in 1952, when David was 9 years old, he convinced the youngster to play the role of Morten Stockmen in the Heinrik Ibsen play “An Enemy of the People.”

From 1953 to 1956, Richard Solberg served as the senior representative for the Lutheran World Federation to oversee refugee relief operations in West Berlin, so the family relocated to West Germany, and David made a point of learning the German language.

In 1956, the Solbergs returned to Sioux Falls. David often sang and played the piano at school and church events. He was very popular at Washington High School, serving on the student council, emceeing school talent shows and acting in school plays.

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David Solberg is seen performing in “The Enchanted” at Washington High School in Sioux Falls in 1961. Solberg became David Soul of “Starsky and Hutch” fame.

Washington High School Yearbook/1961/via e-yearbook

He also wrote sports for the yearbook, was president of the journalism club and treasurer of the German club. David was also a member of the high school track team and the American Legion baseball team.

It was reported that he was such a good ball player that he was offered a professional baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox organization. Following high school graduation in 1961, David enrolled at Augustana and was frequently featured in plays directed by Earl Mundt. He became very involved in the Lutheran campus church and, in 1962, was elected president of the South Dakota Luther League.

After two years of college, David decided to accompany his family to Mexico City, where his father had accepted a professorship at the University of the Americas, a college whose major focus was to teach students to become diplomats. David quickly learned Spanish and enrolled at the university. He also learned to play the guitar and began performing some of the more popular Mexican folk songs at small gatherings.

After a year in Mexico City, David hitchhiked back to the U.S. and enrolled at the University of Minnesota, majoring in history and political science. To help pay for school expenses, he found a part-time job singing and playing guitar at the 10 O’Clock Scholar coffee house, located on the university campus.

With his demonstrated talent in music and his interest in history and politics, David became intrigued when he heard that Bismarck businessman Harold Schafer was sponsoring a summerlong production, “Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again: A Medora Musical,” which would be performed in an outdoor amphitheater. David auditioned for and earned a role as one of “The Medora Kids” (now The Burning Hills Singers) in the first Medora Musical.

Fred Smith of Hal Sheehan Inc., the show’s original producer, told Curt Eriksmoen in 2004, the young David Soul “was a good singer, he played a good guitar; he was no slouch.”


David Soul (Solberg) performing at the “Medora Musical” in the summer of 1965.

Special to The Forum

Smith also remembers the future star as one of the cast’s more playful members.

One day, Smith got a concerning call from Harold Schafer, who started the show. Schafer told the producer David and a girl from the cast were out at 3 a.m. in Medora, making noise and throwing mud at each other.

“In those days, the streets were dirt,” Smith recalls. “I guess it rained and they were having fun throwing mud at each other.”

But it wasn’t all play. David was working toward launching a real career in show business. A New York agent was pursuing him for other work and wanted him to leave the show early.

Smith talked him out of it, but the day after the show closed the actor headed for New York and bigger things, he says.

New York and Hollywood success

Before setting out to New York, David Solberg knew that he needed a catchy name and a unique gimmick to make himself salable. He shortened his last name to Soul and donned a mask, calling himself “the covered man.”

Soul then sent a photo of himself along with a demo tape to the William Morris Agency and was hired “sight unseen.” The agency got Soul booked onto “The Merv Griffin Show,” and his debut was a success. He came on stage in his costume and said, “My name is David Soul and I want to be known for my music,” and then sang a song or two.

For the rest of 1965 and early 1966, Soul became a semi-regular on the show.


David Soul as “the covered man.”

Special to The Forum

After taking acting lessons from actresses Irene Dailey and Uta Hagen, he appeared in the television shows “Flipper,” “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Star Trek,” and was then given a co-starring role in the movie “The Secret Sharer,” written by Joseph Conrad.

In 1968, Soul acquired fame and relative financial security by becoming a co-star on the ABC television series “Here Come the Brides.” It involved the adventures of three brothers working at a logging camp in post-Civil War Seattle who had marriageable, single women sent to them.

But Soul’s greatest success came in 1975 when he was cast as Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchison in ABC’s police drama “Starsky and Hutch.”

Hutch as portrayed by Soul was described by the production company as a “blond Duluth, Minnesota native with a more reserved and intellectual approach” than his partner David Starsky, a streetwise Brooklyn native (portrayed by actor Paul Michael Glaser).

The show which the Internet Movie Data Base described as a show about “two streetwise cops busting criminals in their red-and-white Ford Gran Torino, with the help of police snitch Huggy Bear,” became very popular spawning a line of children’s toys.

Soul’s popularity as Hutch led to a record deal and an eventual chart-topping hit in 1976 called “Don’t Give Up on Us.”

When “Starsky and Hutch” went off the air in 1979, Soul continued acting, including a role as Roy Chapman in the television series “The Yellow Rose” in 1984.

Along with his acting, Soul also began to work as a director and producer of various projects, and he turned much of his attention to promoting social and environmental issues. In 1995, he was invited to the United Kingdom to act in the play “Catch Me If You Can,” and London became his new residence. In 2004, he became a British citizen.

Soul had been very popular for his work in the U.S., but in the U.K. and the rest of Europe, he was a superstar, and members of the royal family were fans as well.

David Soul was introduced to a new generation of fans when he and Glaser made cameo appearances in the 2004 movie remake of “Starsky and Hutch” starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

But there were troubled times as well. Soul was married five times. Alcohol and violence were cited as issues in the marriages. Soul openly admitted that he had anger issues stemming from feelings of “hurt and being misunderstood,” and through hard work, he said he “became much more circumspect and much less desperate.”

He had been with Snell since 2002.

Soul leaves behind five sons and a daughter.

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