On this day, May 18th in 2017, the world has lost one of the greatest rock voice ever. Just a few hours after SOUNDGARDEN finished their show at Fox Theatre in Detroit on Wednesday night, Chris Cornell, lead singer of the band and voice of the transcended generation was found dead in his hotel room at age 52. Seattle’s grunge scene from the 90s has lost another legend and hero. He is now jamming in heaven with his fellow friends and musicians Andrew Wood, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, and others who left us too soon.
Chester Bennington, his close friend and singer of Linkin Park, wrote a letter to Chris via Twitter saying: “You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivalled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.”
Cornell was born as Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964, in Seattle, Washington. He was one of six children in an Irish Catholic family he’d described later as an “Urban but not really urban… suburban but not really suburban.” The divorce of his parents resulted in him taking his mother’s maiden name, Cornell.
Chris described himself at this young age as a loner; he was able to deal with his anxiety around other people through rock music. During his teenage rebellious years, he spiraled into severe depression, dropped out of school, and almost never left the house. At the age of 12, he had access to alcohol, marijuana. LSD, psilocybin mushroom, and prescription drugs. He was on and off of those till around 15 years of age when he dropped out of high school and turned to music. During this time, he worked as a dishwasher, floor cleaner and cook to earn for a living and pursuit his dream: to form a band that would later on become a Soundgarden.
He achieved that in 1984 when Chris formed Soundgarden with Kim Tagyil on guitar and Hiro Yamamoto on bass. Chris himself played drums and did the lead vocals before they listed a full time drummer Matt Cameron. Cornell than took a rhythm guitar and could fully concentrate on the vocals.
“The first show I had a fever of 103 (degrees, 39.5 °C)” he’d tell Rolling Stone. “I somehow got sick so I was delirious. I don’t remember much of it, but I spent a lot of time crawling around on the stage and jumping on people.” The band recorded three songs for C/Z Records compilations “Deep Six” and then signed to SUB POP and recorded a couple of EPs “Screaming Life” (1987) and “Flopp” (1988) before their full-length debut “Ultramega OK” in 1988: introducing the world to a trademark sound blending punk-rock intensity, Beatles-Esque melodies, and a heavy metal groove topped off with Chris’ multi-octave voice, which James Hickie from KERRANG! described as “soulful and searing, but always seductive.” Debut earned them the first Grammy nomination.
With their second album “Louder Than Love” which was released one year later, they took the Seattle music scene to the mainstream by being the first grunge band to sign with a major label, A&M. The album was also the last record with Hiro on the bass, who was replaced by former Nirvana guitarist Jason Everman, and later Ben Shepherd.
One band was never enough for Chris Cornell and he always seeks for side projects and collaborations. This began in 1990 with Temple Of The Dog, a tribute to his friend and a roomate Andrew Wood, the frontman of rock band Mother Love Bone, who died of a heroin overdose aged 24. Mother Love Bone will, later on, become Pearl Jam with Eddie Vedder on the vocals.
Along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains, Soundgarden quickly becomes one of the most successful bands from Seattle’s emerging grunge scene in the early 1990s. The new level of commercial success arrived with releasing their 1991 album “Badmotorfinger” but their breakthrough album was 1994’s “Superunknown”, including grammy-winning singles such as “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun”. Following the release of their fifth studio album “Down On The Upside” in 1997, the band split and went silent for 12 years before they got back together and made a post-reformation album “King Animal” in 2012.
During the years when Soundgarden went silent, Chris showed his flexibility and a creative spirit by releasing his debut solo album “Euphoria Morning” in 1999. Although it didn’t bring him commercial success as with his former band, critics praised the blissful, sultry quality of songs that brought his writing to the fore. But that was about to change a couple of years later in 2001 when he joined forces with Rage Against The Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk and formed a supergroup Audioslave. During their six-year-long career, they released three albums – 2002’s “Audioslave”, 2005’s “Out Of Exile”, and 2006’s “Revelations”. Despite the Grammy nominations and him delivering some of the best vocal performances of his career, Chris was struggling with a strong drinking problem while making Audioslave’s debut album. The band split in February 2007 due to “irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences”.
After leaving Audioslave, Chris recorded three other solo albums, “Carry On”, “Scream”, and “Higher Truth”, as well as 2011’s “Songbook”. We can not forget to mention that he also recorded a theme song for a James Bond movie Casino Royale, called “You Know My Name”. He and his wife Vicky Karayiannis, who he married in 2004, formed Th Chris & Vicky Cornell Foundation in 2012, providing aid to the most vulnerable children.
On Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 Soundgarden played for 5000 people at the Fox Theatre in Detroit and Cornell post a message on his twitter earlier that day: “Finally back to Rock City”. The show seemed to be normal, however, Cornell looked tired according to the fans attending the show. After the concert, Cornell signed some autographs outside the Fox and then went to his hotel room in MGM Grand hotel and casino. He made a phone call to his wife Vicky. “I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different,” she said. “When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two (anxiety medication, that has been used by recovering addicts), I contacted security and asked that they check on him.”
At around 12:15 AM, police officers responded to a call about the death at the MGM Grand hotel. They found a body of Chris Cornell on the bathroom floor of his room, with an exercise band around his neck. The singer, aged 52, was pronounced dead at the scene. According to a statement on the afternoon of May 18th, the Wayne County medical examiner’s office confirmed Cornell’s death as a suicide by hanging.
With Chris Cornell, we lost one of the greatest rock voice ever which can never be replace. He will always be missed but his spirit will be around forever.
SOURCES: Wikipedia, Kerrang! (James Hickie), Rolling Stone magazine