Friday, May 19, 2017

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden & Audioslave, R.I.P.

Chris Cornell photo by Gordon Correll, courtesy GDCGraphics
Photo by Gordon Correll/GDCGraphics
One of the leading lights of the ‘90s-era Seattle scene, Chris Cornell was found dead in the bathroom of his room at the MGM Grand in Detroit, Michigan after performing a show with Soundgarden at the Fox Theatre. Cornell’s cause of death was ruled to be suicide by hanging; he was only 52 years old.

Cornell is primarily known as the singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist for Seattle rock legends Soundgarden. He was also an accomplished solo artist and the frontman of early 2000s supergroup Audioslave as well as the founder of Temple of the Dog, a band formed in tribute to Cornell’s late friend Andrew Wood of Seattle rockers Mother Love Bone. Perhaps the most classically skilled vocalist of the grunge-era, Cornell famously had a vocal range of nearly four octaves and could sing with great power and emotion.

Cornell formed Soundgarden in 1984 with former bandmates Hiro Yamamoto (bass) and Kim Thayil (guitar), originally playing drums and singing. The band added drummer Scott Sundquist and moved Cornell up front, and this line-up recorded three songs that appeared on the C/Z Records compilation Deep Six. When Sundquist left the band in 1986, he was replaced by Matt Cameron of Skin Yard, who would become Soundgarden’s permanent drummer. Signing with Seattle’s Sub Pop Records, the band released the Screaming Life EP in 1987 and the Fopp EP the following year. Jumping to punk label SST Records, the band released its full-length debut, Ultramega OK, which earned them a Grammy® Award nomination and a subsequent deal with the major label A&M Records, for whom they recorded their sophomore effort, 1989’s Louder Than Love.

Soundgarden’s tenure with A&M Records resulted in but four studio albums total, but they’re all considered classics of the era. The band’s 1991 breakthrough, Badmotorfinger, charted Top 40 in the U.S. and U.K. on its way to double Platinum™ sales while its follow-up, 1994’s Superunknown, topped the U.S. charts and sold better than five million copies, earning Soundgarden superstar status. Their final album for the label, 1996’s Down On the Upside, would go Top 10 in a half-dozen countries and land a Platinum™ Record for sales. The band toured constantly, including a slot on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour co-headlining with Metallica. After a worldwide tour that spanned 1996-97, Soundgarden broke up due to internal tensions and disagreement over the creative direction of the band.

Cornell launched his solo career with the 1999 release of Euphoria Morning, which performed respectively, charting Top 20 in the U.S. and Canada, with the singer touring in support of the album. He wouldn’t release a second solo album until 2007’s Carry On, following up two years later with Scream. In between solo efforts, Cornell formed the band Audioslave in 2001 with former Rage Against the Machine band members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk. Audioslave released three albums between 2001 and 2006, selling close to five million copies, the band’s middle album Out of Exile hitting #1 in the U.S. and Canada. Cornell left the band in 2007 to renew his solo career. He would release his final solo album, the critically-acclaimed Higher Truth, in 2015.

Soundgarden reunited in 2010 with the band’s 1990s-era line-up of Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd, and drummer Matt Cameron. The band was touring at the time of Cornell’s death, releasing the album King Animal in 2012 and working on new songs as recently as late 2016. Cornell’s legacy as one of the greatest singers in rock ‘n’ roll is based on his critically-acclaimed work with both Soundgarden and Audioslave. One of the big four bands of Seattle’s vaunted ‘grunge’ scene, Soundgarden was arguably the first and one of the most successful among its peers, largely due to Cornell’s immense vocal abilities, on-stage charisma, and songwriting talents. He will be missed…

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