Say Hello 2 Heaven: Chris Cornell 1964-2017

Just when you thought 2017 couldn’t be as bad as 2016…

Mere hours after a live performance with Soundgarden in Detroit, frontman Chris Cornell was found dead in the bathroom of his hotel suite. At the time of writing the medical examiner’s office has ruled it a suicide, doubly shocking for his and the band’s fans. In apparent good spirits before the show, the singer tweeted his excitement at performing in Detroit, ‘Rock City’ as he called it.

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He came to prominence with Soundgarden in the late 1980s; after two EPs for the Seattle label SubPop the band released its debut ‘Ultramega OK’ on the independent SST label in 1988, before they signed to A&M the next year, releasing ‘Louder Than Love’ which gained them international attention. The group made its first breakthrough in 1991 with the ‘Badmotorfinger’ album, coming as it did when the ‘grunge revolution’ erupted and spawning hits such as ‘Outshined’ and ‘Jesus Christ Pose’.  At around the same time, Cornell was involved in the Temple of The Dog album alongside musicians formerly of the band Mother Love Bone; this album was intended as a tribute to that band’s vocalist Andrew Wood who died in 1990 shortly before the release of their debut album ‘Apple’. Several of the musicians involved went on to form Pearl Jam, to great success.

The next album, ‘Superunknown’ (1994) put the band into rock’s premier league; the hits ‘Spoonman’ and then ‘Black Hole Sun’ (with its disturbingly surreal video) got them huge exposure on MTV. With the demise of Nirvana following frontman Kurt Cobain’s death that year, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam were left to carry the flag for what was being billed as ‘alternative rock’ at the time. By 1996, the huge success had taken its toll and after touring their ‘Down On The Upside’ album (this included a slot on the Lollapalooza tour that year after headliners Metallica requested the addition of Soundgarden to the bill) they split in early 1997. Drummer Matt Cameron later joined Pearl Jam and remained a member even after the 2010 reunion of Soundgarden.

Cornell released his solo album ‘Euphoria Morning’ in 1999 (retitled ‘Euphoria Mourning‘ in a subsequent reissue), undertaking a tour to support it which came to the UK in 2000. The musical direction of this album was considerably more laidback than his old band, but was well-received. Following this, he surprised fans when he announced he would join forces with members of Rage Against The Machine to form the band Audioslave; the new band (considered a ‘supergroup’) was an immediate success, releasing three albums between 2001 and 2007. When that band ended, he returned to a solo career, releasing three more solo albums (‘Carry On’, 2007; ‘Scream’ 2009′; and ‘Higher Truth’, 2015).  For ‘Scream’ he collaborated with hip-hop producer Timbaland, with the resulting record venturing into electronic pop territory.

Soundgarden had reformed in early 2010 after several years apart; releasing a compilation (‘Telephantasm’) and touring the US, they then delved into their archives for a live album (‘Live on I-5’), released in 2011 but taken from tapes of several shows from their 1996 tour. Their reunion studio album ‘King Animal’, released in 2012, would prove to be the final Soundgarden album with Cornell.  There was another compilation (‘Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path’) in 2014 which collated rare tracks with previously unreleased and live material, but plans for another studio album ended with Cornell’s passing.

He was involved in many other collaborations and had his biggest UK success in 2006, scoring a top ten hit with the song ‘You Know My Name’, the theme tune to that year’s James Bond film (‘Casino Royale’, starring Daniel Craig in the title role). Feted for his powerful four-octave range voice, he won admirers from fans of classic rock as well as those who were in on the grunge wave as it happened.

This rather quickly-written post hardly touches on his career or the impact he made on the rock scene in general, but in closing a few tweets from fellow rock musicians will help illustrate what a legacy he leaves.

 

An instagram tribute from Halestorm singer Lzzy Hale:

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