Singer Chris Cornell's death ruled a suicide
Rocker Chris Cornell, famous lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, died on tour at the age of 52.
The death of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell has been ruled a suicide by the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office.
"The Medical Examiner has completed the autopsy on 52-year-old Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden musician who died last night in Detroit," the agency's statement read. “The cause of death has been determined as suicide by hanging. A full autopsy report has not yet been completed. There is no additional information at this time."
Spokesman Brian Bumbery told the Associated Press that Cornell was found in his hotel room at the MGM Grand Detroit following a tour date at Detroit's Fox Theatre with the reunited Soundgarden, the band he'd fronted for over 30 years.
Dontae Freeman, media relations manager for the Detroit Police Department, later told the Detroit Free Press, “He was found in his room with a band around his neck."
Cornell had appeared to be in good spirits Wednesday when he tweeted, "Finally back to Rock City" before the show. However, Freeman noted that the singer's wife, Vicky Karayiannis, asked a family friend to check on Cornell after the show later that evening. The friend forced open his hotel room door and found Cornell unresponsive on the bathroom floor.
Bumbery called Cornell's death “sudden and unexpected” and said his wife and family are in shock. The statement said the family have asked for privacy.
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An unmistakable voice
Cornell's distinctive, nearly four-octave wail was as synonymous to Seattle's grunge-music scene as the opening guitar notes to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.
According to Nielsen Music, he sold 14.9 million albums over the course of his career, first with Soundgarden and later as the frontman of the supergroup Audioslave and as a solo artist. And although he reached stardom well before the advent of iTunes, he still managed to notch 8.8 million track sales and 300 million on-demand audio streams.
Cornell formed Soundgarden in 1984 with Hiro Yamamoto, a bandmate from his old group, the Shemps. The new group would later recruit guitarist Kim Thayil and drummer Matt Cameron.
The band melded 1970s hard rock and heavy metal with alternative, paving the way for better-known bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Soundgarden became the first grunge act to sign a major-label record deal after releasing their earliest tracks on Sub Pop, the nascent indie record label that would also come to be known as the home of the "Seattle sound," and SST, a label owned by Black Flag leader Greg Ginn.
They jumped to A&M records for their sophomore effort, 1989's Louder Than Love, for which Cornell earned raves for his voice and slams for his first major lyric-writing effort, which Rolling Stone critic J. D. Considine knocked as "clichéd" and "generally incomprehensible." But thanks to singles Hands All Over and Big Dumb Sex, Louder Than Love cracked the Billboard 200 album chart, a first for Soundgarden.
The following year, Cornell formed the first of his two supergroups: Temple of the Dog, a collaboration with Cameron and the surviving band members from Mother Love Bone, which had been fronted by Cornell's friend and roommate Andrew Wood until he died of a heroin overdose on March 19, 1990. Those bandmates — Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, would go on to form the basis of future Rock Hall of Famers Pearl Jam, along with Temple guest vocalist Eddie Vedder.
Temple of the Dog reunited for a tour in 2016 to mark the 25th anniversary of their album, which yielded the hit Hunger Strike.
Soundgarden's well-timed third record, Badmotorfinger, arrived in October 1991, just a few weeks after Nirvana's Nevermind, and the band found radio and MTV much more receptive this time around. The double-platinum Badmotorfinger yielded the singles Outshined and Rusty Cage, earned them the opening slot on Guns N' Roses tour and their first Grammy nomination for best metal performance.
The band's place in the grunge canon was recognized with a couple of cameos in Cameron Crowe's 1992 film Singles, his romantic comedy about twentysomethings in Seattle. Cornell also was part of the soundtrack, contributing the solo acoustic track Seasons.
Soundgarden earned mainstream success and Grammys with their fourth album, 1994's Superunknown, which sold 3.9 million copies thanks to more accessible hits like Spoon Man, Black Hole Sun and a pair of ballads that dealt with suicide and depression, The Day I Tried to Live and Fell on Black Days.
Like many of his hard-rock contemporaries, including Dave Grohl and the members of Metallica, Cornell headed for the hair salon in the mid-1990s and rid himself of the long hair that was as much a part of the fading grunge era as flannel shirts.
Soundgarden parted ways in 1997 but Cornell didn't stay solo for long, forming his second supergroup, Audioslave, with Rage Against the Machine alumni Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford. They put out three albums together over six years and enjoyed hits such as Like a Stone and Cochise before disbanding in 2007. They even played a concert in Cuba, which few other acts have done.
Looking California, feeling Minnesota
Like many of his contemporaries, Cornell struggled with drug abuse, especially after the demise of Soundgarden, which had espoused the drug, alcohol and tobacco-free Straight Edge lifestyle. In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, he joked that he'd been a "pioneer" in oxycontin abuse.
He entered rehab in 2002, separating from his first wife, Susan Silver, and forcing Audioslave to back out of its first tour. By all accounts, he had managed to remain sober for the rest of his life.
Cornell told The Guardian that his 2004 divorce from Silver, band manager and the mother of his first child, was so bitter that it took four years to regain custody of his guitars.
He shed light on that period of his life in an interview with KSHE-FM in St. Louis, explaining, "I really had to come to the conclusion, the sort of humbling conclusion that, guess what, I'm no different than anybody else, I've got to sort of ask for help — not something I ever did, ever. And then part two of that is, like, accept it when it comes and, you know, believe what people tell me. And trusting in what I have been told, and then seeing that work.”
'School is back in session'
In January 2010, Cornell announced via Twitter that Soundgarden had reunited. Two years later, the reconstituted band contributed a song and video, Live to Rise, to the first Avengers movie and released their sixth studio album, King Animal. The video for one of its songs, By Crooked Steps, was directed by Dave Grohl and features the band, in their long-haired glory, rolling up to a club gig on Segways.
The biggest difference this time around? Sobriety. "There are no bottles of Jack Daniels around or beers. And we never talked about ... it's just not there," Cornell remarked in 2011.
Last summer, drummer Cameron and Ben Shepherd,who replaced Thayil, said they had written six songs for their next album but did not give a timetable for its release.
At the time of his death, Cornell was splitting his time between California and Paris, the base for Karayiannis, his second wife, with whom he has a daughter and a son. In the Guardian interview, he mentioned he'd even been dabbling in the Paris restaurant scene.
“That’s probably the business I’d have ended up in if it wasn’t for music," said the singer, who worked in Seattle kitchens before becoming a rock star. "It’s good for me to be involved in different things.”
Contributing: Detroit Free Press