The world of rock has lost a central, defining jewel in its musical crown. Chris Cornell, the iron-throated lead singer of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog, has died suddenly and unexpectedly at age 52. Authorities have ruled his death a suicide. His representative announced the passing in a statement to the Associated Press.
Cornell, the inspiration and vocal high-water mark for virtually every aspiring rock singer over the last three decades, played a concert in Detroit just last night (footage). His future plans extended to virtually all of his fan-beloved projects, including planned work with Soundgarden and ToTD, as well as a possibility of Audioslave returning.
Update: Chris Cornell’s death has been ruled a suicide.
BREAKING: Medical examiner determines Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell committed suicide by hanging in Detroit.
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 18, 2017
Born in Seattle in 1964, Cornell’s four-octave wail was a cornerstone figure in the city’s exploding grunge scene, which dominated rock in the early ’90s. Soundgarden were the first of Seattle’s new era of flannel-clad rock bands to sign to a major label, selling more than 10 million records over the course of their career. The band broke up in 1997, after which Cornell released a solo album, then joined former members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. Cornell reunited with Soundgarden in 2010, and released King Animal in 2013 to fan adoration and critical acclaim. The band has been working on a follow-up.
Cornell also worked with Temple of the Dog, featuring members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, in a tribute record to his fallen best friend Andrew Wood. Having never properly toured in the ’90s, ToTD reunited for an enormously celebrated full tour in November of 2016.
In addition to four total solo albums, Cornell released the singly The Promise in March on iTunes, with proceeds going to the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian aid and relief organization. This was in tandem with the Chris and Vicky Cornell foundation, supporting children facing tough challenges in life.
The day he passed, Cornell posted a clip from Soundgarden’s tongue-in-cheek By Crooked Steps video on his Facebook account, with the lyrics, “I’m the shape of the hole inside your heart.”
The band tweeted Wednesday night a quote from Cornell: “What I look forward to the most…is the camaraderie. It’s what we missed when we weren’t a band.”
— Soundgarden (@soundgarden) May 16, 2017
The entire world of rock has ground to a deafening halt. The sun hasn’t risen yet on the West Coast, and my phone hasn’t stopped exploding for the last half hour. The universal adoration for the hero of virtually all our musical heroes is palpable.
I can’t possibly overstate how grateful I am to have experienced those four Temple shows on the tour half a year ago, building on the legend from the impromptu ToTD reunion at a Pearl Jam show in Santa Barbara in 2003 and a follow-up at PJ20 in 2011. I’d seen every incarnation of those one-off Temple reunions, but the tour last fall was an entirely different essence of value and meaning. Every moment of those shows was incredible (exhibit A), due in no small part to Cornell’s clear exhilaration at reviving the songs he wrote for his best friend so many years ago, with a group of virtually lifelong friends. It was a dream come true for fans, and so fleeting.
“If I write a song and put it out there, it’s not mine anymore,” Chris recently told CNN. “It takes on a life of its own, and when you listen to it, it becomes your song. And over the course of generations, those meanings will change.”
This void will not subside.
The king of Seattle has died. Long live the king.