May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell, 1964-2017
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Chris Cornell, 1964-2017

This morning the music world was left reeling after the shocking and sudden news that Chris Cornell, best-known as the lead vocalist for Seattle band Soundgarden, had died aged just 52, only a few hours after performing a show with the band at Detroit's Fox Theatre. At the time of writing, the cause of his death is not yet known.

Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Cornell's musical career began in the early 1980s as a member of Seattle based covers band called The Shemps, whose line-up also featured, at various times, guitarists Hiro Yamamoto and Kim Thayil, both of whom would become founding members of Soundgarden.

Forming in 1984, Soundgarden's original line-up featured Cornell on both vocals and drums, with Yamamoto on bass and Thayil playing guitar. Scott Sundquist was recruited a year later as a drummer to enable Cornell to concentrate on vocals, but was later replaced by Matt Cameron, who would go on to become the band's permanent drummer, and it was with this line-up that the band recorded and released their debut album, Ultramega OK, in 1987.

Although not a huge commercial hit, the album led to a major record deal with A&M, who released their sophomore album Louder Than Love, in 1989. Yamamoto left shortly afterwards to be replaced by Ben Shepherd, and the band began to gain further critical and commercial success with their third album BadMotorFinger, released in 1991. Although never self-identified as part of the 'grunge' movement that emerged from Seattle at that time, Soundgarden benefitted from the wave of interest in the Seattle scene that also produced bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but it was their 1994 album, Superunknown, that stylistically set them them apart from from their peers.

Characterised largely by Cornell's powerful, four-octave voice and Thayil's inventive, towering riffs, Superunknown would prove to be the band's breakthrough record, selling enough copies to certify the album platinum five times over and earning them several Grammys in 1995, including wins for Best Rock Video and Best Hard Rock Performance for 'Black Hole Sun', Best Metal Performance for 'Spoonman' and a nomination Best Rock Album.

Soundgarden would release one more album, 1996's Down on the Upside, before creative differences led the band to split and Cornell embarked on a solo career that would see him release five solo albums, as well as writing and performing 'You Know My Name', the theme tune for the 21st James Bond film, Casino Royale.

In the midst of writing his second album, Cornell was approached by Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello (at the suggestion of Rick Rubin), who was looking for a replacement vocalist following the departure of Zack de la Rocha. The chemistry was immediate and Cornell joined the newly-named Audioslave, with whom he would go on to release three albums between 2002 and 2006. In addition, Cornell also worked with various other artists including Alice Cooper, Carlos Santana and Linkin Park.

Cornell would reunite with Soundgarden in 2012 for the band's sixth album, King Animal, and had continued to tour with the band right up until his sudden death, just hours after their concert in Detroit on May 17th.

Outside of his musical career, Cornell and his wife Vicky also co-founded the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, a charity aimed at helping to support children suffering abuse and neglect.

He leaves behind a wife and three children. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go out to his family and friends.