Chris Cornell (born Christopher John Boyle; July 20, 1964 – May 18, 2017) was an American musician, singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist, primary songwriter and rhythm guitarist for Seattle rock band Soundgarden and as lead vocalist and songwriter for the group Audioslave. He was also known for his numerous solo works and soundtrack contributions since 1991, and as founder and frontman for Temple of the Dog, the one-off tribute band dedicated to his late friend Andrew Wood.
Cornell was known for his role as one of the architects of the 1990s grunge movement, for his extensive catalog as a songwriter and for his near four octave vocal range as well as his powerful vocal belting technique. He released four solo studio albums, Euphoria Morning (1999), Carry On (2007), Scream (2009), Higher Truth (2015) and the live album Songbook (2011). Cornell received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his song “The Keeper” which appeared in the film Machine Gun Preacher and co-wrote and performed the theme song to the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006), “You Know My Name“. He was voted “Rock’s Greatest Singer” by readers of Guitar World, ranked 4th in the list of “Heavy Metal’s All-Time Top 100 Vocalists” by Hit Parader, 9th in the list of “Best Lead Singers of All Time” by Rolling Stone, and 12th in MTV’s “22 Greatest Voices in Music”.
Cornell was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and attended Christ the King Catholic elementary school, and Shorewood High School. Before becoming a successful musician, he worked at a seafood wholesaler and was a sous-chef at a restaurant named Ray’s Boathouse. Soundgarden was formed in 1984 by Cornell, Thayil and Yamamoto with Cornell originally on drums and vocals. Soundgarden signed to Sub Pop, releasing the Screaming Life EP in 1987 and the Fopp EP in 1988 (a combination of the two was issued as Screaming Life/Fopp in 1990). Though the band was being courted by major labels, in 1988 they signed to SST Records to release their debut album, Ultramega OK (198, for which they earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance in 1990. The band subsequently signed with A&M Records, becoming the first grunge band to sign to a major label. In 1989, the band released their second effort, and their first for a major label, Louder Than Love. Following the release of Louder Than Love, Yamamoto left the band to finish his master’s degree in physical chemistry at Western Washington University. He was replaced by former Nirvana guitarist Jason Everman. Everman was fired following Soundgarden’s tour supporting Louder Than Love. In 1990, the band was joined by a new bassist, Ben Shepherd.
Along with Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden became one of the most successful bands from Seattle’s emerging grunge scene in the early 1990s. With Shepherd, the new line-up recorded Badmotorfinger in 1991. Superunknown became the band’s breakthrough album. Upon its release in March 1994, Superunknown debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The album launched several successful singles, including “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun”, and granted Soundgarden international recognition. The band’s fifth album was 1996’s self-produced Down on the Upside. The album spawned several singles, including “Pretty Noose”, “Burden in My Hand”, and “Blow Up the Outside World”. The album was notably less heavy than the group’s preceding albums, and marked a further departure from the band’s grunge roots. However, tensions within the group arose during the sessions, with Thayil and Cornell reportedly clashing over Cornell’s desire to shift away from the heavy guitar riffing that had become the band’s trademark.
Due to tensions within the band, reportedly due to internal strife over its creative direction, Soundgarden announced it was disbanding on April 9, 1997. In 1998, Cornell began working on material for a solo album on which he collaborated with Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider of the band Eleven. The album, titled Euphoria Morning, was released on September 21, 1999. On June 5, 2007, Cornell released his second solo album, Carry On, produced by Steve Lillywhite. It debuted at number 17 on the American Billboard charts. Audioslave was formed after Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine and the remaining members were searching for another vocalist. Their debut album, Audioslave, released in November 2002, spawned hits such as “Cochise”, “Like a Stone” and “Show Me How to Live”, and has reached triple platinum status in the United States. Audioslave’s second album, Out of Exile, was released in May 2005 and debuted at number one on the U.S. charts. The album has since gone on to achieve platinum status. In early 2006 the band returned, recording their third album as they had written most of the material during the tour. The band released the album, titled Revelations, in September 2006.
On February 15, 2007, Cornell officially announced his departure from Audioslave, stating that “Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences. He reformed Soundgarden with Thayyil, Sheppard & Cameron (who is also the drummer for Pearl Jam). Their sixth album, King Animal, was released in November 2012 to largely positive reviews. Cornell was married to Susan Silver, the manager of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. They had a daughter, Lillian Jean, born in June 2000. He and Silver divorced in 2004. He was married to Vicky Karayiannis, a Paris-based American publicist of Greek heritage. The union produced a daughter, Toni, born in September 2004, and a son, Christopher Nicholas, born in December 2005. He has fought a long battle with alcohol abuse and has been sober for a while. On May 18, 2017, Cornell died suddenly in Detroit after performing at a show with Soundgarden according to his representative, Brian Bumbery. The cause of death is currently unknown.
Update : his death was ruled as suicide by hanging.