Chris Cornell, lead vocalist of the Seattle-based band Soundgarden died unexpectedly Wednesday, May 17th after a show at Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan.
On Thursday, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Cornell’s death as suicide by hanging. He was 52.
Cornell’s four-octave distinct growl helped make Soundgarden one of most popular bands of the 1990s, along with fellow Seattle groups Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. Their album Badmotorfinger, along with Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten were released in the same two-month span in 1991 and helped to take so-called “alternative music” into the mainstream. The band’s follow-up Superunknown was released in 1994 and the popularity of the single “Black Hole Sun,” helped broaden their audience.
After the band’s fifth album, Down on the Upside, Soundgarden broke up in 1997, citing differences in creative direction.
In a New Year’s Day tweet from 2010, Cornell announced the re-forming of the band, stating “The 12-year break is over and school is back in session…. Knights of the Soundtable ride again!”
In addition to a solo career, Cornell was also lead singer of Audioslave, a “supergroup” formed with members of Rage Against The Machine, including guitarist Tom Morello. The band released three albums between 2002 and 2006.
In 1990, the band Temple of the Dog was formed by Cornell as a tribute to his friend and roommate, Andrew Wood (lead singer of Seattle band, “Mother Love Bone”) who died from a heroin overdose. Temple of the Dog, made up of Cornell with Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, and Matt Cameron also featured Eddie Vedder on some vocals. One song, “Hunger Strike,” was on heavy rotation on MTV. Last year, the band toured in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their self-titled album.
Over the years, Cornell was upfront about his addiction to drugs and alcohol. An article in today’s New York Times cites an interview with The Guardian in 2009 in which Cornell describes himself as a “pioneer” in the abuse of the opiate OxyContin.
The band’s setlist from last night’s show in Detroit ended with its song “Slaves & Bulldozers,” which included the refrain from “Fixin’ To Die,” by legendary Delta blues artist Bukka White.