Chris Cornell, who is best known as the frontman of Seattle grunge legends Soundgarden, died Wednesday night while on tour in Detroit, according to the AP. He was 52.
No cause of death is known at this time, but Cornell’s representative told the AP that the musician’s death was “sudden and unexpected.” AP News is reporting that police are investigating his death as a possible suicide, stating there were “basic things observed at the scene” to warrant this. Cornell had performed with Soundgarden in Detroit, MI, that night, and was later found dead on the bathroom floor at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel.
Along with his abilities as a songwriter, Cornell had a multi-octave vocal range, impressively hitting high notes that made him a stand-out first in the metal scene and then later as a pioneer of the Seattle grunge sound.
In 1984, the Seattle native co-founded Soundgarden, and has remained all these years as the band’s singer, rhythm guitarist, and primary songwriter. In the late 1980s, the group released their first two albums, Ultramega OK (1988) and Louder Than Love (1989), and started to earn followers in the metal scene, filling the direct-support slot on progressive thrash metalers Voi Void’s 1990 tour (Faith No More, before their single “Epic” blew up, served as openers). In 1991, with the rise of grunge rock with the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, Soundgarden put out their well-received effort Badmotorfinger, which saw more radio play and videos in MTV rotation, with tunes like “Rusty Cage,” “Outshined,” and “Jesus Christ Pose.” As grunge and the Seattle sound became more popular, so did Soundgarden; Cornell contributed to the Cameron Crowe’s 1992 Seattle-based film Singles soundtrack and even played one of the band members in the movie. He also took part in the group Temple Of The Dog, which formed and released one album in 1991 as a tribute to Cornell’s late roommate and friend, singer Andy Wood of Mother Love Bone.
But it Soundgarden’s 1994 album Superunknown, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, that propelled them to mega-stardom, with hits “Black Hole Sun,” “My Wave,” “Spoonman,” and “Fell on Black Days.” This followed with continued success in 1996 with Down on the Upside and the hits “Pretty Noose,” “Burden in My Hand,” and “Blow Up the Outside World.” And then in 1997 the band did something totally unexpected — they quit while they were ahead. Cornell went on to release solo material, as well as front the supergroup Audioslave (with members of Rage Against The Machine).
In 2010, Soundgarden reunited and released the album King Animal in 2012. The band had been on a headline tour of North America and had material for a new album when Cornell passed suddenly. His final show was Wednesday night in Detroit, MI.
The musician had struggled with severe depression, dating back to his teen years, addiction in the past and had gone through rehab, but reportedly enjoyed a life of sobriety prior to Soundgarden’s reunion. Along with his successful music career, Cornell was a philanthropist. Along with his wife, he started the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, which helps children facing homelessness, poverty, abuse, and neglect.
Saddened by Prince’s death in April 2016, Cornell posted a live acoustic cover of his song “Nothing Compares 2 U” in tribute, stating “Prince’s music is the soundtrack to the soulful and beautiful universe he created, and we have all been privileged to be part of that amazing world.” The same can be said for the world Cornell created. His sudden passing so early in his life comes as a shock to fans and fellow musicians alike.
Cornell is survived by his wife Vicky, their daughter Toni (2004) and son Christopher Nicholas (2005), and daughter Lillian (2000) from his previous marriage. His family is reportedly working with medical examiners to determine the cause of death.
UPDATE: A medical examiner has determined that Cornell’s death was suicide by hanging, per the AP. Earlier reports stated that a police spokesman said that the singer was found with “a band around his neck,” although this part has not been confirmed.