Chris Cornell, A Pioneer of Grunge and More

Soundgarden played to a sold out crowd at the Fox Theatre in Detroit Wednesday evening.  In a tweet sent out earlier in the day, front man Chris Cornell showed enthusiasm to be “finally back in Rock City.”

Later on that evening, Cornell would be found unresponsive by a family friend in his hotel room at the MGM Grand hotel.  Emergency medical personnel were called and would pronounce Cornell, at age 52, dead at the scene.  The medical examiner has ruled his death a suicide by hanging, though an official autopsy has yet to be performed. 

According to his representative, Brian Bumbery, Cornell’s passing was “sudden and unexpected” and his wife and family were shocked by it.

As news spread of Cornell’s death, fans and fellow musicians took to social media honoring the late singer.  Many reflected on the legacy his music left behind and the impact it has had, while others agreed his vocal prowess was one of a kind. Meanwhile, others shared in a feeling of disbelief of the rocker’s sudden passing.

Cornell would form the band Soundgarden in Seattle in 1984, along with Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto.  As part of a new sound called grunge, the band would sign with Sub Pop and release two EPs.  They would garner interest from major labels and would become the first grunge band to land a deal when they signed with A&M Records in 1989.

Alongside bands like Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden would emerge as one of the most successful band from Seattle’s grunge scene in the early 90s.  They would release the album Badmotorfinger in 1991, which produced commercial hits such as “Outshined” and “Rusty Cage”. 
They would follow that album up with the more successful Superunknown in 1994.  That would prove to be their breakout album as it would debut at number one on the Billboard 200.  With hits like “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun”, the album would help the band garner international recognition while going quintuple platinum in the United States.  The band would release another album in 1996, Down on the Upside, before disbanding in 1997 due to creative differences.

Soundgarden was not the only band with which Cornell would leave a legacy. Back in 1991, he collaborated with members of what would become Pearl Jam to form Temple of the Dog.  Their self-titled album would be tribute to mutual friend Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose the year before.  It would feature hits such as “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Hunger Strike”, the latter Cornell would work a duet with Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder.

In addition, Cornell formed Audioslave in 2001 along with the remaining members of Rage Against the Machine after singer Zack de la Rocha left the band.  Audioslave would find commercial success with singles such as “Like A Stone”, “Cochise”, and “Be Yourself”.  They would go on to be the first American rock group to perform a concert in Cuba in 2005, playing a free show in Havana in front of a crowd of 70,000 people.  The band would split in 2007 after members would go on to other musical ventures.

In his solo career, Cornell would release four studio albums and one live album. His song “You Know My Name” accompanied the opening titles for the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale.  The song would go on to win a number of awards, as well as be nominated for a Grammy for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media.  His final solo release was a charity single titled “The Promise”, written for the end credits for the movie of the same name.

His journey throughout his career was not always a smooth one.  He, much like many of his contemporaries of his generation, battled with the demons of drug and alcohol abuse.  Cornell would have a stint in rehab in 2000, which Cornell would credit to his getting clean along with supportive band members and friends.

Cornell married twice in his life, first to Susan Silver with whom he had a daughter in 2000.  The couple would divorce in 2004.  He would go on to marry Vicky Karayiannis that same year, and the couple would have two children together.  The two were heavily involved with philanthropic work, including the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation which supported children facing challenges like homelessness, poverty, abuse, and neglect.

Back in 2010, Soundgarden got back together when they announced their plans to headline Lollapalooza that year. They would release their first studio album in 16 years with King Animal back in 2012.  The band was currently in the middle of a tour and were set to play at Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday.

In what would be his last song, Cornell sang a cover of Led Zepplin’s “In My Time Of Dying”, which have the haunting opening lyrics:

In my time of dying, I want nobody to mourn

All I want for you to do is take my body home

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