Chris Cornell, Soundgarden and Audioslave Frontman, Dies at 52
Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, died on Wednesday night in Detroit after the band had earlier performed there. He was 52.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said the death was a suicide by hanging. It said a full autopsy had not yet been completed.
Soundgarden played at the Fox Theater in Detroit on Wednesday night, and it had been scheduled to perform in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday at the Rock on the Range festival.
Dontae Freeman, a spokesman for the Detroit Police Department, said in an interview that officers went to the MGM Grand hotel and casino around midnight in response to a call about an apparent suicide of a white man, whom he did not identify. Mr. Freeman said the man’s date of birth was July 20, 1964, which is Mr. Cornell’s.Continue reading the main story
He added that the man’s wife had called a family friend to check on the man; the friend forced his way into the man’s room at the casino and found him unresponsive on the bathroom floor with a band around his neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr. Cornell appeared to be active on social media in the hours before his death. A post on his Twitter account announced that the group had arrived in Detroit, and a clip of the group’s 2012 release “By Crooked Steps” was posted to his official Facebook page.
Mr. Cornell acknowledged in interviews that he had struggled with drug use throughout his life. In a 1994 Rolling Stone article, he described himself as a “daily drug user at 13” who had quit by the time he turned 14.
After Soundgarden disbanded in 1997, a breakup that would last for more than a decade, Mr. Cornell returned to heavy drug use, telling The Guardian in 2009 that he was a “pioneer” in the abuse of the opiate OxyContin and that he had gone to rehab.
Mr. Cornell helped form Soundgarden in Seattle, where he was born, around 1984. Sub Pop, then a fledgling record label, released the group’s first single, “Hunted Down,” in 1987, as well as two subsequent EPs. The group’s debut album, “Ultramega OK,” came a year later.
The album “Badmotorfinger,” released in 1991, benefited from a swell of attention that was beginning to surround the Seattle scene, where Soundgarden, along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, were playing a high-octane, high-angst brand of rock ’n’ roll.
Soundgarden’s musical journeys tended toward the knotty and dark, plunging into off-kilter meters and punctuated by Mr. Cornell’s voice, which could quickly shift from a soulful howl to a gritty growl.
Three of Soundgarden’s studio albums have been certified platinum, including “Superunknown,” from 1994, which featured “Black Hole Sun,” “Fell on Black Days,” “Spoonman” and “My Wave.”
Video by SoundgardenVEVO
After disbanding, the group — which includes the guitarist Kim Thayil, the bassist Ben Shepherd and the drummer Matt Cameron — reunited in 2010 and has performed regularly since then.
Reviewing a 2011 concert at the Prudential Center in Newark in The New York Times, Jon Pareles called Soundgarden “one reunited band that can pick up right where it left off.” In 2012, it released “King Animal,” its first album in 16 years, which Mr. Pareles said “sounds like four musicians live in a room, making music that clenches and unclenches like a fist.”
Mr. Cornell released five solo albums during and after his time with Soundgarden, starting with the 1999 LP “Euphoria Morning.” His 2007 album “Carry On” featured an acoustic cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” which was the inspiration for a well-received version of the song on “American Idol.”
He contributed the song “Seasons” to the soundtrack of “Singles,” Cameron Crowe’s love letter to the Seattle music scene, and performed alongside other members of Soundgarden in the film.
Video by Micheleland
In 2001, after Rage Against the Machine’s lead singer, Zack de la Rocha, left the group, Mr. Cornell and members of that band formed Audioslave. The group released three albums before announcing its split in 2007.
In November 2016, Mr. Cornell hit the road for the first time with another supergroup of sorts, Temple of the Dog, featuring a blend of members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. The group had been formed about 25 years earlier as a tribute to Andrew Wood, the lead singer of the Seattle bands Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone, who died of a heroin overdose in March 1990.
Mr. Cornell told The Times that the group had decided to finally bring its songs to life to honor Mr. Wood. He said, “I thought, well, this is one thing that I can do to remind myself and maybe other people of who this guy is and was and keep his story — and, in a way, his life — with us.”
An earlier version of this obituary misidentified the source of a tweet honoring Chris Cornell. The posting came from a Rage Against the Machine fan account, not from the band.