Soundgarden Singer Chris Cornell Dies at the MGM Grand Detroit
Chris Cornell, the lead singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave, died of an apparent suicide at the MGM Grand Detroit. The 52-year old icon of the grunge rock era was found dead overnight in his room at the casino-hotel.
The Wayne County Medical Examiner determined Cornell’s death to be suicide by hanging, though the coroner noted that a full autopsy has yet to be completed. Cornell was on tour with his band at the time of the his death.
Chris Cornell Spokesman
Brian Bumbery, a representative of Chris Cornell’s, released a statement which said, “His wife Vicky and family were shocked to learn of his sudden and unexpected passing, and they will be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause.”
Bumbery added, “They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty and ask that their privacy be respected at this time.”
Chris Cornell: Grunge Music Legend
Chris Cornell was one of the key figures the grunge rock revolution which hit the airwaves in the early 1990s. Cornell founded Soundgarden in 1984 and gained a reputation as one of the prominent Seattle acts on the Sub Pop label. “Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music” by Greg Prato described Chris Cornell as the best natural showman of the grunge acts in the days before the Seattle bands became nationally famous. According to several Seattle musicians quoted in the book, Chris Cornell would cut t-shirts down the front so he could rip them off during Soundgarden sets, which apparently was popular with female fans in Seattle.
It was Chris Cornell’s distinctive voice that made Soundgarden stand out in the Sub Pop days. Soundgarden, along with a patchwork of other Seattle bands, combined elements of punk rock and metal with distorted sounds and unconventional lyrics to create what was labeled “grunge music”. Though most Seattle bands did not like the term “grunge”, they gained notoreity and success in the wake of Nirvana’s crossover hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, in late 1991. By 1992, bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden were gaining nationwide fame as grunge acts.
Soundgarden’s Rise and Fall
Soundgarden was the first grunge act to sign with a major label (A&M Records in 1988), though its debut album (“Ultramega OK”) and follow-up album (“Louder Than Love”) did not achieve mainstream success. 1991’s “Badmotorfinger” was the turning point for Soundgarden, as songs like “Outshined” and “Rusty Cage” became hits. The song “Birth Ritual” was on the “Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” and, despite having a more metal-tinged style than many Seattle bands, Soundgarden was firmly associated with the grunge music of Seattle.
1994’s album Superunknown represented the peak of success for Soundgarden. With songs like “Fell on Black Days”, “The Day I Tried to Live”, and “Black Hole Sun”, Superunknown released at No. 1 on the charts. The album went five-time-platinum and was nominated for Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 1995. The band released two more albums, but never achieved the same success and broke up in 1997.
The Audioslave Years
After a solo career for several years, Chris Cornell joined with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine to form the superband, Audioslave. The band’s eponymous debut album spawned several hits in 2002, including ts such as “Like a Stone”, “Cochise”, and “Show Me How to Live”.
Chris Cornell left the band in 2006, which also happened to be the year he sang the theme song for the James Bond film, Casino Royale. Cornell would reunite with Soundgarden in 2012 and tour with his original band. Over the years, he also was affiliated with the Center for Disease Control Board, Temple of the Dog, M.A.C.C., and Alice Mudgarden.
Chris Cornell’s Legacy
Chris’s powerful vocals made him a favorite with rock fans beyond the grunge scene, as he was voted 9th on the “Best Lead Singers of All Time” list by Rolling Stone Magazine. Soundgarden sold over 22 million albums lifetime, while Chris Cornell was still touring at the time of his death.
It is unknown what spurred Chris Cornell’s suicide. Like so many Seattle musicians of his era, Chris Cornell struggled with addiction in the early years of his career.
He said in a 2007 interview, “It was a long period of coming to the realization that this way (sober) is better. Going through rehab, honestly, did help…it got me away from just the daily drudgery of depression and either trying to not drink or do drugs or doing them and you know, they give you such a simple message that any idiot can get and it’s just over and over, but the bottom line is really, and this is the part that is scary for everyone, the individual kinda has to want it…not kinda, you have to want it and to not do that crap anymore or you will never stop and it will just kill you.”
Struggles with Alcohol and Depression
During a later 2011 interview, he said that alcohol and drugs had all-but-disappeared from backstage at concerts. By then, the Cornell was remarried with kids. The 2007 reference to the cause of his alcohol abuse — depression — might be a hint about the ultimate reason for his death by suicide. Some might say that a man like Chris Cornell had everything to life for, but that does not account for the thought processes which come on through clinical depression, which is often a chemical issue.
Hours before his final concert at the MGM Grand Detroit, he seemed enthusiastic to be visiting the city again. He tweeted, “#Detroit finally back to Rock City!!!!”
Fans afterward suggested Chris Cornell was full of energy during Soundgarden’s final performance at the Detroit casino’s music hall. One fan posted to Twitter, “Amazing show by @soundgarden tonight. Kickstand more than makes up for not playing Fopp.“