[Photo Credit: Mark Brown]
The music world woke up to sad news today, as Chris Cornell
, legendary singer and one of the most iconic figures of the Seattle music scene, died at the age of 52. His body was found just hours after playing a concert with Soundgarden at the Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan. Both Pitchfork
and Rolling Stone
report that the death is being investigated as a possible suicide.
Born and raised in Seattle, Cornell became well involved in the city's underground music scene at a young age, starting in the band The Shemps in the early 80s before eventually forming Soundgarden in 1984. The band quickly established themselves as a standout in the Seattle music scene thanks to their heavy, guitar-driven sound and their willingness to explore dark topics in their music. Cornell, in particular, built a reputation as having one of the best voices in rock, as he possessed unmatched vocal range and could go from a gut-wrenching belt to a delicate whisper in an instant, lifting Soundgarden's music to an even greater level of prowess. The band's groundbreaking second album, 1991's Badmotorfinger
came out just when Seattle's local mix of punk, metal, and hard rock- which eventually became billed as grunge - was crossing over into the mainstream. Along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden became the most famous trailblazers of grunge, and the band has since won multiple accolades and has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide.
Great success didn't come free of troubles, however, as Soundgarden struggled with balancing their meteoric rise and staying close to their local music roots. "Somebody can sit at home and say, 'What does this guy have to complain about?' But at the same time it's a comfortable chair to be sitting in and make those judgments," Cornell explained to Rolling Stone
in 1994, "When all of a sudden you're successful and sought after overnight, you are instantly opened to a lot of sides of humanity that the average person is never going to see. And those can often be pretty disheartening, and it can make somebody pretty lonely." Cornell had also struggled with personal demons starting as a teenager, from depression to drug use to alcoholism, though in recent years he candidly spoke
about his steady road to recovery.
Soundgarden broke up in 1997, but Cornell kept busy with a solo career and a number of side projects. In 2001, he began working with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine after Zack De La Rocha left the group, and the collaboration developed into a completely new band, Audioslave. Supergroup status aside, Audioslave found its own considerable success during their 6-year career, with three albums and widespread critical acclaim. In 2010, Soundgarden reunited and began regularly playing shows again, as well as releasing the album King Animal
in 2012. In 2016, Cornell reunited with another beloved past project, Temple of the Dog
, who released only one album in 1991, but received later recognition after some of the band's members - Mike McCready, Jeff Ament, and Stone Gossard - hit widespread success with their other band, Pearl Jam
Chris Cornell was an unwavering artist who created enough work to last multiple lifetimes and a passion for music that all musicians, no matter what genre, should aspire to. His voice will remain one of the greatest in history, and his lyrics, though often dark and emotionally complex, are a potent reminder to those also working through personal trials that they are far from alone. It is shocking and incredibly sad that Cornell now joins Scott Weiland, Kurt Cobain, and countless other members of the 90s rock era who lived with demons and died long before their time, but at the very least, the music will continue to live on for many more generations to come.