Rock music has lost one of its most recognisable and iconic voices: Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, died on May 17. He was 52.
In an official statement to the Associated Press, Cornell representative Brian Bumbery said the death was “sudden and unexpected”, and that Cornell’s wife and family were shocked by it.
He also said the family would be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause, and asked for privacy in the meantime.
As the lead singer of Soundgarden, Cornell was at the forefront of the 1990s grunge movement originating in Seattle. The band released six albums in total, including breakthrough Superunknown in 1994, which debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and spawned the hit singles Spoonman, Black Hole Sun, and Fell On Black Days.
Named after a sculpture called A Sound Garden in Seattle, Soundgarden was formed in 1984 with Cornell on drums and vocals, Hiro Yamamoto on bass, and Kim Thayil on guitars. The current lineup consisted of Cornell and Thayil, together with bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron.
After disbanding in 1997, they got back together again in 2010 and were touring; they had just played a show in Detroit on the night before Cornell’s death.
During the time Soundgarden was disbanded, Cornell established a successful career as a solo musician. He released his first solo studio album, Euphoria Morning, in 1999, and went on to make three more – Carry On (2007), Scream (2009), and Higher Truth (2015).
In 2006, Cornell co-wrote and sang You Know My Name, the theme song for Daniel Craig’s debut James Bond film, Casino Royale. The song was nominated for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media at the 2008 Grammy Awards. That was not the only acclaimed song Cornell wrote for a film – The Keeper, written for 2011’s Machine Gun Preacher, was nominated for a Golden Globe award in 2012.
In 2001, Cornell formed Audioslave with the three remaining members of Rage Against The Machine (Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk), who had been looking for a lead vocalist to replace Zack de la Rocha. The band released its debut album Audioslave in 2002, which included hits such as Cochise, Like A Stone and Show Me How To Live.
Audioslave went on to release two more albums after that – Out of Exile in 2005 and Revelations in 2006 – before Cornell quit in 2007, citing “irresolvable personality conflicts” and “musical differences” as the reasons for his departure. Although the band reunited this January to play its first show in 12 years at the Prophets of Rage’s Anti-Inaugural Ball (held to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States), Cornell came out to say that there were no immediate plans to reform Audioslave. Sadly, that will never happen now.
Rest in peace, Chris, and may you stay alive in the superunknown.