Chris Cornell (born Christopher John Boyle; July 20, 1964 – May 18, 2017) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter. He was best known as lead vocalist for the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. He was also known for his numerous solo works, soundtrack contributions since 1991 and as founder and frontman for Temple of the Dog, the one-off tribute band dedicated to his friend, the late Andrew Wood.
Cornell in September 2011
|Birth name||Christopher John Boyle|
July 20, 1964|
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
|Died||May 18, 2017
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Cornell, who is considered one of the architects of the 1990s grunge movement, is well known for his extensive catalog as a songwriter, for his nearly four-octave vocal range, and for 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". The last solo release by Chris was the charity single "The Promise", written for the ending credits for the film of the same 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".
According to Nielsen Music, across his entire catalog (Soundgarden, Audioslave and solo career), Cornell sold 14,865,000 albums, 8,808,000 digital songs and had 300,091,000 on-demand audio streams.
Cornell was found dead from suicide in his Detroit hotel room early on the morning of May 18, 2017, following a Soundgarden concert the night before. He suffered from depression and had substance abuse problems earlier in life.
Cornell was born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964, in Seattle, Washington, where he was raised. He attended Christ the King Catholic elementary school, and Shorewood High School. His parents are Ed Boyle, a pharmacist, and Karen Cornell, an accountant. Cornell spent a two-year period between the ages of nine and eleven solidly listening to the Beatles after finding a large collection of Beatles records abandoned in the basement of a neighbor's house.
Cornell was a loner; he was able to deal with his anxiety around other people through rock music. During his teenage years, he spiralled into severe depression, dropped out of school, and almost never left the house. At the age of 12, he had access to heroin, marijuana and prescription drugs and used them daily by 13, stopped for a year, but relapsed at age 15 for another year until he turned to music. Before becoming a successful musician, he worked at a seafood wholesaler and was a sous-chef at Ray's Boathouse in Seattle.
In the early 1980s, Cornell was a member of a cover band called The Shemps, which performed around Seattle. The Shemps featured bassist Hiro Yamamoto. After Yamamoto left The Shemps, the band recruited guitarist Kim Thayil. Cornell and Yamamoto stayed in contact, and after The Shemps broke up, Cornell and Yamamoto started jamming together, eventually bringing Thayil to join them.
1984–1997; 2010–2017: Soundgarden
Soundgarden was formed in 1984 by Cornell, Thayil and Yamamoto with Cornell originally on drums and vocals. In 1985, the band enlisted Scott Sundquist as the drummer to allow Cornell to concentrate on vocals. The band's first recordings were three songs that appeared on a compilation for C/Z Records called Deep Six. In 1986, Sundquist, who by that point had a wife and a child, decided to leave the band and spend time with his family. He was replaced by Matt Cameron, the drummer for Skin Yard, who became Soundgarden's permanent drummer.
"Flower" was the only single released from Ultramega OK. The song's intro features Kim Thayil blowing across his guitar strings.
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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 (1988), 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. The album brought the band to a new level of commercial success, and Soundgarden found itself amidst the sudden popularity and attention given to the Seattle music scene. Badmotorfinger included the singles "Jesus Christ Pose", "Outshined", and "Rusty Cage". The three singles gained considerable airtime on alternative rock radio stations, while the videos for "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" gained considerable airtime on MTV. The song "Jesus Christ Pose" and its music video was the subject of widespread controversy in 1991, and the video was removed from MTV's playlist. "Rusty Cage" was later covered by Johnny Cash on his 1996 album, Unchained. It also appeared on the fictional radio station Radio X on the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and in the 32-bit version of Road Rash. "Room a Thousand Years Wide" was released previously as a single in 1990, but not to promote the album. It was released (with the song "HIV Baby") as a 7" through Sub Pop's Single of the Month club a full year before the release of Badmotorfinger. The song was re-recorded for this album. Badmotorfinger was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1992. It was also ranked number 45 in the October 2006 issue of Guitar World on the magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitar albums of all time.
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 brought Soundgarden international recognition. Superunknown achieved quintuple platinum status in the United States, triple platinum status in Canada, and gold status in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Rolling Stone gave Superunknown four out of five stars. Reviewer J.D. Considine said Superunknown "demonstrates far greater range than many bands manage in an entire career." Considine criticized "Black Hole Sun" and "Half", stating that the former is "not a very good song" while the latter "is the virtual definition of a B-side." Jon Pareles of The New York Times said that "Superunknown actually tries to broaden its audience by breaking heavy-metal genre barriers that Soundgarden used to accept." He added that "Soundgarden ... want[s] something different from standard heavy metal." David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A. He said, "Soundgarden is pumped and primed on Superunknown, and they deliver the goods." He praised it as a "hard-rock milestone—a boiling vat of volcanic power, record-making smarts, and '90s anomie and anxiety that sets a new standard for anything called metal." The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 1995. Two singles from Superunknown, "Black Hole Sun" and "Spoonman", won Grammy Awards, and the music video for "Black Hole Sun" won a MTV Video Music Award and a Clio Award. Superunknown was ranked number 336 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and "Black Hole Sun" was ranked number 25 on VH1's list of the 100 greatest songs of the '90s.
"Burden in My Hand" was the second single released from Down on the Upside. The song was written by Cornell and blends acoustic and electric instrumentation.
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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. Soundgarden explained at the time that it wanted to experiment with other sounds. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly said, "Few bands since Led Zeppelin have so crisply mixed instruments both acoustic and electric." 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. Despite favorable reviews, the album did not match the sales of Superunknown. In 1997, Soundgarden received another Grammy nomination, for the lead single "Pretty Noose". 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 a 1998 interview, Thayil said, "It was pretty obvious from everybody's general attitude over the course of the previous half-year that there was some dissatisfaction."
On January 1, 2010, Cornell alluded to a Soundgarden reunion via his Twitter account, writing: "The 12-year break is over and school is back in session. Sign up now. Knights of the Soundtable ride again!" The message linked to a website that features a picture of the group performing live and a place for fans to enter their e-mail address to get updates on the reunion. Entering that information unlocks an archival video for the song "Get on the Snake", from Soundgarden's second studio album, 1989's Louder Than Love.
In April 2010, Soundgarden announced their plans to headline Lollapalooza 2010. Soundgarden made the announcement through their website and email list. On April 16, 2010, Soundgarden held a secret show at the Showbox Theater on First Avenue in downtown Seattle, publicized via the band's mailing list. The show was billed as Nudedragons, an anagram for Soundgarden. Asked in August 2010 if Soundgarden will record new material, Cornell replied, "it would be exciting to record one song, to hear how Soundgarden-ish that might be this much time later. But for me, it's been more of a trip relearning the songs and playing them together. Some of the songs we're approaching we've never played live."
Soundgarden made their first television appearance since their reunion on Conan O'Brien's second episode of Conan on November 9, 2010 on TBS and toured North America in summer 2011. In summer 2012, Soundgarden released a new single & video, "Live to Rise", for The Avengers movie soundtrack. Their sixth album, King Animal, was released in November 2012 to largely positive reviews. Cornell rerecorded the song "Seasons" for the film Man of Steel in 2013.
1998–2000; 2006–2017: Solo career
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. In his first ever solo tour Cornell spent seven months on the road from September 13, 1999 to March 7, 2000 playing 61 shows in support of Euphoria Morning. Cornell performed two of those coinciding with the debut of the album on September 21 and 22, 1999 at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood California. Attendance for the shows were high, considering he performed the initial shows before fans were even familiar with the music. The touring band was made up of some of the contributing musicians Alain Johannes, Natasha Shneider, Rick Markmann, and Greg Upchurch. The album proved commercially unsuccessful although the album's single "Can't Change Me" was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 2000 Grammy Awards. Euphoria Morning includes "Wave Goodbye", Cornell's tribute to his late friend Jeff Buckley. It has been noted that Euphoria Morning is influenced by Buckley's songwriting and distinctive vocal style. He also contributed the song "Sunshower" (a bonus track on the Japanese release of Euphoria Morning) to the soundtrack of the 1998 film, Great Expectations, and a reworked version of the track "Mission", retitled "Mission 2000", was used on the soundtrack to the 2000 film, Mission: Impossible 2. An unreleased song called "Heart of Honey" was also recorded in collaboration with Johannes and Shneider during this period. According to Alain Johannes, "Heart of Honey" was recorded for the film Titan A.E. but not used.
Cornell and composer David Arnold collaborated on the song "You Know My Name", which Cornell co-wrote and performed and which accompanies the opening titles for the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale. "You Know My Name" is the first theme song since 1983's Octopussy to use a different title than the film, the first ever sung by a male American, and the first ever title theme song that did not appear on the soundtrack album. "You Know My Name" won a 2006 Satellite Award in the category of Best Original Song, and a 2007 World Soundtrack Award in the category of Best Original Song Written Directly for a Film. The song sold 323,000 digital copies and 3.5 million streams, and was also nominated for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media at the 2008 Grammy Awards. This song became the first song recorded for his solo album, which he began work on in 2007.
From the live album Chris Cornell: Unplugged in Sweden
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Though not officially released onto CD, an hour-long acoustic concert Cornell performed on September 7, 2006 at O-Baren in Stockholm, is widely available for download under the title Chris Cornell: Unplugged in Sweden. A promotional CD for his solo album, Carry On, was released in March 2007, titled The Roads We Choose – A Retrospective. The 17-song CD included songs from Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave and Cornell's solo work.
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. Among the artists who accompanied him on his second solo release was friend Gary Lucas, who contributed acoustic guitar to some of the tracks. Cornell has stated that he is always writing, and that there are some songs that he was not able to put onto an Audioslave album. While recording his second solo album, Cornell was involved in a motorcycle accident. He was apparently "rear-ended by a truck in Studio City, Los Angeles while riding his motorcycle" and "catapulted 20 feet into the air." He was able to walk away from the accident, but had severe cuts and bruises. He returned to the studio later that day.
In 2007, Cornell appeared as support to Aerosmith on at least two legs of their 2007 world tour—Dublin, London, and Hyde Park—and to Linkin Park in Australia and New Zealand. These shows formed part of his own ongoing world tour which began in April 2007 and continued into 2008 and 2009. Cornell has described his touring band—comprising guitarists Yogi Lonich and Peter Thorn, bassist Corey McCormick and drummer Jason Sutter—as "musicians that could get the whole picture" playing music by Soundgarden and Audioslave, as well as his solo material.
In 2008, Cornell was featured on the Main Stage of Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution tour. Throughout the tour, Cornell collaborated with Chester Bennington from Linkin Park while performing "Hunger Strike", and with Street Drum Corps for a number of his Soundgarden tracks. While Linkin Park would perform their Grammy-winning song "Crawling", he would appear on stage singing the second verse of the song, the outro, and harmonies Aaron Lewis provided for the Reanimation version.
Cornell worked with producer Timbaland on his studio album Scream, which was released on March 10, 2009. Timbaland has referred to the recording sessions as "The best work I've done in my career," and predicted that Cornell will be the "first rock star in the club." Cornell called the new album "a highlight of my career." The album was largely panned by critics, but was the highest charting album of Cornell's solo career, reaching # 10 on the Billboard 200.
On April 2, 2009, Cornell took over Atlanta Rock station, Project 961, WKLS. For 24 hours the station became "Chris-FM" and included a two-hour special of Cornell DJing and playing his favorite songs of his career with the stories behind them leading up to a rebroadcast of his solo show from the previous night. On September 11, 2009, Cornell performed John Lennon's "Imagine" on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.
In January 2011 Cornell announced his solo acoustic "Songbook" tour, following on from a series of acclaimed solo acoustic shows in Los Angeles during 2009 and 2010. The first leg of the sold-out tour began on April 1, 2011 and continued through the US and Canada until May 6, resuming in October and visiting New Zealand, Australia, South America and the US, ending December 17. The tour received universally positive reviews.
In August 2011 Cornell released "The Keeper", an original song written for the Marc Forster directed 2011 film Machine Gun Preacher and nominated in 2012 for a Golden Globe Award. For the first 24 hours of release, the song was exclusively available as part of the "Donate to Download" campaign for Sam Childers' Angels of East Africa children's charity. The song is also the lead track on the film's soundtrack album.
In November 2011 Cornell released Songbook, an acoustic live album featuring songs recorded during Cornell's 'Songbook' tour in North America. It was his first live album as a solo artist and includes stripped-down solo performances of songs from Cornell's whole career as a solo artist as well as with Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog plus covers of Led Zeppelin's "Thank You" and John Lennon's "Imagine". The album received largely positive reviews, with AllMusic, calling it Cornell's "best solo offering to date". Cornell continued his "Songbook" tour in Europe and the US during 2012 and 2013 to further acclaim.
Audioslave was formed after Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine and the remaining members were searching for another vocalist. Producer and friend Rick Rubin suggested that they contact Cornell. Rubin played the Soundgarden song "Slaves & Bulldozers" for the remaining Rage Against the Machine band members to showcase his ability. Cornell was in the writing process of a second solo album, but decided to shelve that and pursue the opportunity to work with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk when they approached him. Morello described Cornell: "He stepped to the microphone and sang the song and I couldn't believe it. It didn't just sound good. It didn't sound great. It sounded transcendent. And ... when there is an irreplaceable chemistry from the first moment, you can't deny it." The quartet wrote 21 songs during 19 days of rehearsal and began working in the studio in late May 2001.
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. The band was nearly derailed before the album's release; Cornell was going through alcohol problems and a slot on the Ozzfest tour was canceled. During this time, there was a rumor that Cornell had checked himself into drug rehabilitation. He later confirmed it in an interview with Metal Hammer that was conducted from a clinic payphone. In a San Diego CityBeat article, Cornell explained that he went through "a horrible personal crisis" during the making of the first record, staying in rehab for two months and separating from his wife. The problems were ironed out and he has remained sober since this time. The band toured through 2003, before resting in 2004 to record their second album.
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. The album features the singles "Out of Exile", "Be Yourself", "Your Time Has Come", and "Doesn't Remind Me". Cornell admitted to writing his most personal songs ever on this album, influenced by the positive changes in his life since 2002. He also described the album as more varied than the debut and relying less on heavy guitar riffs. Critics initially described Audioslave as an amalgamation of Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden, but by the band's second album, Out of Exile, noted that they had established a separate identity. The album was received more favorably than Audioslave's debut; critics noted Cornell's stronger vocals, likely the result of quitting smoking and drinking, and pointed out that Out of Exile is "the sound of a band coming into its own." AllMusic praised the album as "lean, hard, strong, and memorable." The lyrics, however, were still a common complaint; musicOMH.com wrote that Cornell's lyrics "continue to border on the ridiculous." On May 6, 2005, Audioslave played a free show in Havana, Cuba. Audioslave became the first American rock group to perform a concert in Cuba, playing in front of an audience of 70,000. The band traveled to Havana on May 4 to interact with Cuban musicians. Cornell commented: "Hopefully, this concert will help to open the musical borders between our two countries." The 26-song set concert was the longest the band had ever played.
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. Revelations was influenced by 1960s and 1970s funk and R&B music. The first two singles were "Original Fire" and "Revelations". Two of the songs from the third album, "Shape of Things to Come" and "Wide Awake" were also prominently featured in Michael Mann's 2006 film, Miami Vice, prior to the release of the album. Despite the exposure to other forms of media and the positive critical buzz for their third album, Audioslave did not tour behind the release. They went into hiatus to allow Cornell to complete "You Know My Name", the theme song for the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale, and Morello to pursue his own solo work under the moniker of the Nightwatchman.
All of Audioslave's lyrics were written by Cornell, whilst all four members were credited with writing the music. Their songwriting process was described by Wilk as "more collaborative" and "satisfying" than Rage Against the Machine's, which was "a battle creatively". Cornell, for his part, saw Soundgarden's songwriting method as inferior to Audioslave's. Cornell's lyrics were mostly apolitical; Audioslave's Morello referred to them as "haunted, existential poetry." They were characterized by his cryptic approach, often dealing with themes of existentialism, love, hedonism, spirituality and Christianity. Cornell's battle with addiction to prescription drugs and alcoholism was a defining factor in the writing and recording process. Even though the singer admitted that he was "never able to write effectively" while drinking, and attended rehab after recording the debut album, Morello stated that Revelations was "the first record [Cornell] didn't smoke, drink or take drugs through the recording." However, Morello said: "Chris was stone sober during the making of our Out of Exile album. Chris was also sober during the making of Revelations and prior to recording he gave up smoking as well. I apologize for any confusion or concern that was stirred up by the original article. Sobriety can be a matter of life or death and Chris' courage in maintaining his health for years has been an inspiration."
News about Cornell's departure emerged in July 2006, when insiders stated that after the third album he would leave to pursue for a solo career. The singer immediately denied the rumors, stating: "We hear rumors that Audioslave is breaking up all the time. ... I always just ignore [them]." On February 15, 2007, Cornell officially announced his departure from Audioslave, stating that "Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band Audioslave. I wish the other three members nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors." As the other three members were busy with the Rage Against the Machine reunion with de la Rocha coming back, and Morello and Cornell had each released solo albums in 2007, Audioslave officially disbanded.
On January 17, 2017, it was announced that Audioslave would reunite for their first show in twelve years at Prophets of Rage's Anti-Inaugural Ball, protesting President Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States. The event took place on January 20, 2017.
Asked in February 2017 if there would be more Audioslave reunion shows in the future, frontman Cornell replied, "It's always a possibility. I mean, we've been talking about it for at least three or four years now. We were talking about actually picking dates, and it just ended up not working out because everybody's so busy. They have another band again, they all have separate bands that they do themselves, I have Soundgarden and a solo career that's taking up a lot of time, and I just did Temple of the Dog. So, it's really honestly as simple as we end up having a window of time where it's comfortable for everybody and we want to do it, because I definitely feel like everybody's up for it."
Other musical projects
Center for Disease Control Boys
Temple of the Dog
"Hunger Strike" was the first single released from Temple of the Dog. The song was written by Cornell and features a duet between Cornell and Eddie Vedder.
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While still in Soundgarden, Cornell recorded an album with members of what would become Pearl Jam. This collaboration went under the name Temple of the Dog, and the self-titled album was released in 1991. The album is a tribute to their mutual friend, and Cornell's former roommate, Andrew Wood. Wood, the former lead singer of Mother Love Bone, had died of a heroin overdose the year before. Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard of Mother Love Bone teamed up with Mike McCready, new vocalist Eddie Vedder, and drummer Dave Krusen in 1990, forming Pearl Jam. Cameron would eventually become Pearl Jam's drummer in 1998. Temple of the Dog has gone on to sell more than a million copies, thanks in large part to the singles "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Hunger Strike", the latter of which features a duet between Cornell and Vedder. This was the first time Vedder was recorded professionally. During a 2003 Pearl Jam show at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Cornell appeared as a surprise guest. After playing a short acoustic set, Cornell joined Vedder and the rest of the band to perform "Hunger Strike" and "Reach Down". On October 6, 2009, Cornell made a surprise appearance during a Pearl Jam concert at the Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles. The reunited Temple of the Dog played "Hunger Strike". At the end of the concert, Cornell took a bow with the band along with Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.
Cornell, together with Mark Arm of Mudhoney, contributed vocals on the Alice in Chains song "Right Turn", from the 1992 EP, Sap, although the band given credit for this song is Alice Mudgarden. The song was featured in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down.
In 1992, Cornell and three other former members of Temple of the Dog played under the name M.A.C.C. (McCready, Ament, Cameron, Cornell), recording the song "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" for the 1993 album, Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
Cornell worked as a co-producer and backing vocalist on the Screaming Trees' 1991 album, Uncle Anesthesia. He acted in a cameo role and an onstage performance in Cameron Crowe's 1992 Seattle-based film, Singles. He also contributed his solo song "Seasons", and Soundgarden's song "Birth Ritual", to the Singles soundtrack. Cornell contributed vocals on Alice Cooper's "Stolen Prayer" and "Unholy War" (which he also wrote) from the 1994 album, The Last Temptation. In 1997, Cornell collaborated with Eleven on a rendition of the song, "Ave Maria", for the Christmas compilation album, A Very Special Christmas 3. Cornell has also performed live with the band Linkin Park.
It was incorrectly believed (for many years) that Cornell had written the Eleven song "Someone to Die For" on the 2004 Spider-Man 2 soundtrack, but this was corrected in an interview in April 2007. The song is performed by Jimmy Gnecco of Ours and Brian May of Queen. Cornell had recorded a demo of the song some time earlier, which was released only to members of the Eleven street team.
Cornell co-wrote (with Brian Howes) David Cook's first post-American Idol album single, "Light On", released in 2008. And in 2009, he contributed vocals on the song, "Mister Dirt", from the album, Good.Night.Melody, by Joshua David. Cornell sang one song (which he co-wrote) on Slash, Slash's solo record released in April 2010. The song is called "Promise" and it was premiered at amazon.com on March 26, 2010. He contributed vocals on the song, "Lies", on the 2010 album, Third and Double, by Gabin which was subsequently released as a single in October 2010. Cornell appears on the Carlos Santana album Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time, where he sings on the cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love".
On January 30, 2015, Cornell joined Mike McCready and Barrett Martin plus Duff McKagan, the Seattle Symphony and others in a special 'Sonic Evolution' concert at Seattle's Benaroya Hall in a tribute to Mad Season. The performance was released as a live album.
Cornell's songwriting often features non-standard chord progressions and melodies that do not conform with one diatonic scale. A prominent example is "Black Hole Sun", which not only involves many kinds of open chords and several key changes in short sequences, but also unique melody phrases with large-interval jumps.
Cornell's most concentrated example of his own songwriting style remains on his first solo album Euphoria Morning, as his subsequent works, whether with Audioslave or on his later solo albums, tend toward the conventional and only occasionally contain short but inventive interludes (e.g., "Like a Stone", "Disappearing Act", "No Such Thing").
Cornell had a multi-octave range. He was a baritone with an ability to sing extremely high in the tenor range, as well as in the lower register of a baritone voice. He showcased this in various songs, most notably the studio and the demo versions of "Beyond the Wheel", where he can be heard spanning three octaves. He also experimented with various different vocal styles, ranging from light falsetto to brutal screams and chants. In addition to singing rock and metal mainly with Soundgarden and Audioslave, Cornell sang the blues, neo-soul and stripped-down acoustic numbers.
Cornell made a cameo in the 1992 film Singles. Cornell was the face of fashion producer John Varvatos' 2006 ad campaign. He became a restaurateur with the opening of his restaurant, Black Calavados, in Paris. He was also the owner of the music publishing company You Make Me Sick I Make Music.
Cornell was first 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. In December 2008, Cornell reported via his official website that he had finally won back his collection of 15 guitars after a four-year court battle with Silver.
In 2004, he married Vicky Karayiannis, a Paris-based American publicist of Greek heritage. The couple had a daughter together, Toni, in September 2004, and a son, Christopher Nicholas, in December 2005. In 2012, the Cornells created the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation which works for homeless, poor, abused or neglected children. In 2013, a portion of proceeds from ticket sales went to benefit the cause.
In a 2008 interview, Cornell said about religion, "I don't follow any particular one. I think I'm sort of a free thinker and kind of open. So many bad things–as well as good things–have happened based on people blindly following religion, that I kind of feel like I want to stay away from any type of specific denomination or any religion period, for no other reason than just that.".
Cornell had multiple addictions which he was able to manage from roughly 1980 until 1997, when Soundgarden broke up and his first marriage was failing. At that point he turned to OxyContin and other substances. He checked into rehab in 2002. When asked how he beat them, he stated, "It was a long period of coming to the realization that this way (sober) is better. Going through rehab, honestly, did help ... it got me away from just the daily drudgery of depression and either trying to not drink or do drugs or doing them and you know, they give you such a simple message that any idiot can get and it's just over and over, but the bottom line is really, and this is the part that is scary for everyone, the individual kinda has to want it ... not kinda, you have to want it and to not do that crap anymore or you will never stop and it will just kill you."
In a 2011 interview, Cornell said the major change with the reformed Soundgarden was a lack of alcohol: "The biggest difference I noticed ... and we haven't even really talked about it: there are no bottles of Jack Daniel's around or beers. And we never talked about it ... it's just not there."
Around 12:15 a.m. on May 18, 2017, Cornell was found dead by his bodyguard in the bathroom of his room at the MGM Grand in Detroit after performing at a show with Soundgarden at the Fox Theatre on May 17. He was lying on the floor with an exercise band around his neck. Paramedics arrived at the scene just before 1 a.m. and performed CPR on him. Cornell was pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m. on May 18. The cause of death was determined to be suicide by hanging. Cornell was 52 years old. Footage of his final concert was posted to YouTube.
Cornell's wife and his attorney contend that until the toxicology report is released his death should not be seen as intentional, as Cornell's increasing the dosage of Ativan may have distorted his thinking, possibly leading to suicidal ideation. His wife claims that rather than being dismissive about his future, he had earlier that day made intricate plans with her for an upcoming Memorial Day family vacation. She stated, "When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him."
Soundgarden's drummer, Matt Cameron, was the first of Cornell's former bandmates to comment on his death saying "my dark knight is gone" via Facebook. Pearl Jam, who Cameron also drums for, released a tribute on their website with a picture of Cornell entitled "Chris". Cornell was cremated on May 23, 2017. His funeral took place on May 26, 2017 at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Attendees and speakers at the ceremony included band members Kim Thayil, Tom Morello and Matt Cameron, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Dave Grohl, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, James Franco, Pharrell, and Josh Brolin.
Cornell released five solo albums. Soundgarden produced six albums, five EPs and two greatest hits compilations. He released three albums with Audioslave and one album with Temple of the Dog. Despite this large discography he only released one retrospective compilation which was given a limited release. Cornell also produced the Screaming Trees album Uncle Anesthesia.
- Solo releases
- Albums with Soundgarden
- Albums with Audioslave
- Album with Temple of the Dog
- Temple of the Dog (1991)
Awards and nominations
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