chris-cornell-soundgarden
Photo: Palmers Lodge

Grunge Pioneer Chris Cornell Dead at 52

Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, a singer who left an indelible mark on rock music, died at 52 last night in Detroit, Michigan. Along with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden’s distorted, angsty sounds changed music in the 1990s.

Cornell was found unresponsive with a band around his neck in the bathroom of his hotel room at the MGM Grand Detroit and was pronounced dead on the scene. This afternoon, a medical examiner determined the cause of death as suicide by hanging.

Earlier that same night, Cornell played what became his final show with Soundgarden at the Fox Theater. The group was currently in the middle of a North American tour.

Cornell was born in 1964 in Seattle and assembled Soundgarden at the age of 20 in 1984. In 1987, Soundgarden released the Screaming Life EP, one of the earliest records on Seattle’s defining record label, Sub Pop.

A year later in 1988, the group released its debut album Ultramega OK, which was nominated for Best Metal Album at the 1990 Grammy Awards.

Soundgarden’s 1991 release Badmotorfinger, was their major label debut and their biggest success yet. Coming just as the music world had locked its attention on Seattle’s burgeoning grunge scene, the album’s music videos fir “Outshined” and “Rusty Cage” became popular on MTV, giving the sound further mainstream attention. One video from the album, “Jesus Christ Pose,” was temporarily banned from MTV because it was considered “anti-Christian.”

 

 

Soundgarden’s fourth album, 1994’s Superunknown, was the group’s defining album. Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the album featured two of the group’s most popular songs, “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman,” both of which won Grammys. Superunknown eventually sold over 5 million copies.

Despite Cornell’s success with Soundgarden, he fought with personal demons his entire life. In a 1994  interview with Rolling Stone, he revealed that he struggled with drug addiction at the age of 13  In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, Cornell said that he was clean and sober at the time, but when Soundgarden broke up in 1997, he started to abuse “everything.”

After Soundgarden, Cornell went to form Audioslave with the remaining members of Rage Against the Machine’s after its lead singer, Zack de la Rocha left the group. Cornell released three albums with Audioslave before the group disbanded in 2007. As a solo artist, Cornell released five albums, including 2009’s Scream, a pop play that was produced by Timbaland. It reached the No. 10 on the Billboard 200.

Unlike his two biggest grunge contemporaries, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Cornell had the most natural rock star persona. His quirky interviews during Soundgarden’s peak years are well remembered.

 

In 2015, Cornell released his last solo album, Higher Truth. In 2010 he had reunited with Soundgarden and released the band’s first album in 16 years, King Animal, in September of 2012. In 2016, Cornell toured with the Pearl Jam-Soundgarden mashup band Temple of the Dog to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their only album. Last year, it was reported that Soundgarden was back in the studio and wrote six songs for a new album.

The group just started their North American tour last month. In a tweet posted two days ago, Cornell shared one of his final thoughts about touring with his group.

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