Waking up last Thursday morning, May 18, 2017, to the news of Chris Cornell’s passing, was so shocking that it didn’t feel real. It was inconceivable. This was someone who had apparently kicked addiction to the curb more than a decade ago, was in the midst of the first tour with Soundgarden in several years, and was one of the last living legendary singers from the Seattle grunge era that’s been plagued by premature deaths.
And just like that, hours after taking the stage at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, the Soundgarden/Audioslave/Temple of the Dog frontman was gone. He was 52. As of this writing, it appears to be suicide by hanging.
Cornell influenced so many of our lives with what feels like hundreds upon hundreds of songs through his numerous bands and also his solo work. The two-time Grammy Award winner (for Best Metal Performance with “Spoonman” and Best Hard Rock Performance with “Black Hole Sun”) and Golden Globe nominee (for Best Original Song with “The Keeper” from Machine Gun Preacher) was a jack-of-all-trades who knocked it out of the park on smash hits such as “Fell On Black Days,” “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Rusty Cage,” “The Day I Tried To Live,” and “Burden In My Hand.” Soundgarden went on to sell an estimated 25 million albums worldwide.
Then there’s the beautiful Temple of the Dog project Cornell started in 1990 as a tribute to his roommate, Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose. Their emotional self-titled album was an immediate success with Cornell fronting the supergroup, and when the band reunited and toured last year for the 25th anniversary, tickets sold out in minutes. By seemingly all accounts, he sounded better than ever at these shows.
As great as Cornell was with Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog in the late ’80s and ’90s, he really shined with Audioslave in the early 2000s. Despite dealing with substance abuse issues during the recording of their self-titled debut and entering rehab shortly after its release, Cornell went back to dominating, with Audioslave going three-times platinum. While the album perhaps wasn’t received as well as some of his others with Soundgarden, Audioslave—with powerful tracks like “Cochise,” “Show Me How To Live,” “Like A Stone” and “I Am The Highway”—completely owned rock radio, and as a teenager at the time, I loved hearing the band on 92.3 K-Rock. Chris was officially back five years after Soundgarden broke up in 1997 (they reunited 13 years later).
According to Cornell’s bio, he was the first male American artist to write and perform the theme song for a James Bond movie (“You Know My Name” for Casino Royale). He wrote the end title song “Live To Rise” for The Avengers, the third highest grossing film of all time. He duetted with Joy Williams on his song “Misery Chain” which appeared on the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave. He also started the Chris & Vicky Cornell Foundation in 2012 “with the mission to protect the most vulnerable children.”
Chris Cornell was a legend in every sense of the word, and sadly, he now joins the likes of Layne Staley, Scott Weiland, and Kurt Cobain as legendary grunge singers gone way too soon. He leaves behind his wife Vicky and their two children, 11-year-old son Christopher and 12-year-old daughter Toni, as well as 16-year-old daughter Lillian from a previous marriage. We’ve featured Cornell and his projects countless times in these pages over the years—including cover stories on Soundgarden in 1989 and 2012, Audioslave in 2003 and 2005, and solo in 2011—and we’re all shocked and saddened to see him go.
Say hello to Heaven, Chris.
(Click photos below to enlarge.)