Thursday, May 18, 2017

Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell dead at 52

Only a couple weeks ago, Soundgarden headlined the Fort Rock Festival in Fort Myers, FL, ending the entire festival with hit after hit that Soundgarden was known for.  The mosh pit was strong, erupting through the crowd, bodies knocking into one another, sliming up against each other.  It's hard to fathom that the lead singer, Chris Cornell, is now dead.

On tour celebrating 25 years since their iconic release in 1991 of Badmotorfinger, they had a strong summer of touring lined up.  In Detroit, they had just played a sold out show, and following the high of adoring fans eager to catch a glimpse of the legendary musician, evidence at the scene points to Cornell committing suicide at the MGM Grand Detroit Casino and Hotel in downtown Detroit.  For people who were too young to catch the band during their heyday, this tour had offered them the chance to experience the sensation that took the 90's grunge era, but that legacy has been cut short, as Cornell went to join other grunge frontmen who died before their time, such as Nirvana's Kurt Corbain, Alice In Chains' Layne Staley, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, and Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon.

A few years back, Cornell once again dominated the rock scene with his band Audioslave, proving that he could still produce hit songs.  He always had an amazing vocal range, teaming up with notorious musicians for projects such as Temple of the Dog.  With piercing eyes contrasting his locks of dark curls, Cornell's voice was strong, having a vocal range that was phenomenal into his 50s.

Temple of the Dog was formed with members of Pearl Jam and Mother Love Bone to honor deceased friend Andrew Wood, Cornell's former roommate and frontman of Mother Love Bone, who had died of a heroin overdose; Cornell wrote songs "Reach Down" and "Say Hello to Heaven" as a reaction to Wood's death.  Ironically, the very last song that the Grammy winning artist would perform was a cover of Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying" at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.  That song was merged with a 13-minute rendition of "Slaves and Bulldozers."

Soundgarden was formed in 1984, predating both Pearl Jam and Nirvana.  Perhaps the height of popularity came with "Super Unknown," a 1994 release that won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance with song "Black Hole Sun" and Best Metal Performance for "Spoonman."  Even with the success, the group took at break in 1997, and Cornell teamed up with the guys from Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave in 2001, which hosted a concert that was claimed to be the first outdoor concert by an American band in Cuba in 2005, though some dispute the claim; additionally, Cornell produced five solo albums, sang the theme of "Casino Royale," and he was nominated for a Golden Globe for "The Keeper" from film "Machine Gun Preacher."

According to police spokesman Michael Woody, a friend had forced his way into the hotel room and found Cornell dead in the bathroom on the floor.  The Detroit Freepress reported that digital media relations manager for the Detroit Police Department Dontae Freeman said the singer was, "found in his room with a band around his neck."  The Associated Press contacted the Wayne County Medical Examiner and reported the singer's death was caused by hanging, but an autopsy is being performed.

Cornell had a daughter Lillie Jean in 2000 from his first marriage to Susan Silver, who was the manager of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden.  With his current wife Vicky Karayiannis, the couple had a daughter Toni in 2004 and a son Christopher Nicolas in 2005.  The couple started the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation for children facing challenges like homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect.

The singer was born July 20, 1964, as Christopher John Boyle to a pharmacist father and accountant mother.  He had two brothers and three sisters.  Cornell took his mother's name when his parents got divorced.

Apparently, Cornell had a history of depression, as he reported being depressed in a Rolling Stone interview when he had written the song "Fell On Black Days."  "I'd noticed in my life there would be periods where I would feel like things aren't going so well, but they weren't based on any particular thing," he said. "There wasn't a catastrophe, there wasn't a relationship split, nobody got in a car wreck. My outlook just changed. It was kind of a terrifying thought. I wanted to write a song about that."

It was reported that Cornell started using drugs daily at 13, had a bad drug experience and stopped by 14, claiming to have no friends until 16, and was kicked out of school at 15.  He told Rolling Stone in 1994, "There was about two years where I was more or less agoraphobic and didn't deal with anybody, didn't talk to anybody, didn't have any friends at all. All the friends that I had were still (messed) up with drugs and were people that I didn't really have anything in common with."  At 16, while working as a dishwasher and busboy, he discovered music while learning to play drums; he had described Seattle as a hard rock town, comparing it to being like a northwest version of Detroit.

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