I was going to publish a piece today about Sly Stone ending up living in a van.
But not now.
Wednesday I was home, writing the epilogue of another lost girlfriend, and listening to Soundgarden and the solo work of Chris Cornell. I never do that. I was actually listening to Badmotorfinger, the full album on You Tube, while I wrote my blog. The irony has struck me hard, and I am still trying to understand what is happening. I love the song “You Know My Name” from the James Bond film, Casino Royale. I always think of it as my theme song.
I woke up Thursday to a text from my buddy, Church that Chris had passed. I was shocked and saddened. It comes with a heavy heart that I publish today’s blog.
Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, has died at 52.
The death of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell has been ruled a suicide by the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“The Medical Examiner has completed the autopsy on 52-year-old Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden musician who died last night in Detroit. The cause of death has been determined as hanging by suicide. A full autopsy report has not yet been completed. There is no additional information at this time.”
Spokesman Brian Bumbery told the Associated Press that Cornell was found in his hotel room at the MGM Grand Detroit following a tour date at Detroit’s Fox Theatre with the reunited Soundgarden, the band he’d fronted for over 30 years
Dontae Freeman, media relations manager for the Detroit Police Department, later told the newspaper, “He was found in his room with a band around his neck, but (the report) doesn’t say if it was attempted suicide or not.”
Cornell had appeared to be in good spirits Wednesday when he tweeted, “Finally back to Rock City” before the show. However, Freeman noted that the singer’s wife, Vicky Karayiannis, asked a family friend and asked him to check on Cornell after the show later that evening. The friend forced open his hotel room door and found Cornell unresponsive on the bathroom floor.
Bumbery called Cornell’s death “sudden and unexpected” and said his wife and family are in shock. The statement said the family would be working closely with the Wayne County medical examiner to determine the cause and have asked for privacy.
Chris was born in 1964 in Seattle and helped form Soundgarden 20 years later. Sub Pop, then a fledgling record label, released the group’s first single, “Hunted Down,” in 1987, as well as two subsequent EPs. The group’s debut album, “Ultramega OK,” came a year later.
“Badmotorfinger,” released in 1991, benefited from the swell of attention that was beginning to surround the Seattle scene, where Soundgarden, along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, were playing a high-octane, high-angst brand of rock ’n’ roll. Soundgarden’s musical journeys tended toward the knotty and dark, plunging into off-kilter meters and punctuated by Mr. Cornell’s voice, which could quickly shift from a soulful howl to a gritty growl.
Three of Soundgarden’s studio albums have been certified platinum, including “Superunknown,” from 1994, which featured “Black Hole Sun,” “Fell on Black Days,” “Spoonman” and “My Wave.”
The group — which includes the guitarist Kim Thayil, the bassist Ben Shepherd and the drummer Matt Cameron — disbanded in 1997, but it reunited in 2010 and performed regularly since then. In a review of a 2011 concert at the Prudential Center in Newark, The New York Times chief pop critic Jon Pareles called Soundgarden “one reunited band that can pick up right where it left off.” In 2012, it released “King Animal,” its first album in 16 years, which Mr. Pareles said “sounds like four musicians live in a room, making music that clenches and unclenches like a fist.”
The group played at the Fox Theater in Detroit on Wednesday night, and it had been scheduled to perform in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday at the Rock on the Range festival.
Chris appeared to be active on social media in the hours before his death. A post on his Twitter account on Wednesday announced that the group had arrived in Detroit, and a clip of the group’s 2012 release “By Crooked Steps” was posted to his official Facebook page hours before his death.
Chris had admitted in interviews to struggling with drug use throughout his life. In a 1994 Rolling Stone article, he described himself as a “daily drug user at 13,” who had quit by the time he turned 14.
After Soundgarden disbanded in 1997, Mr. Cornell returned to heavy drug use, he told The Guardian in a 2009 interview, describing himself as a “pioneer” in the abuse of the opiate OxyContin, and saying that he had gone to rehab.
Chris released five solo albums during and after his time with Soundgarden, starting with the 1999 LP “Euphoria Morning.” His 2007 album “Carry On” featured an acoustic cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” that served as the inspiration for a well-received version of the song on “American Idol.” He contributed the song “Seasons” to the soundtrack of “Singles,” Cameron Crowe’s love letter to the Seattle music scene, and performed alongside other members of Soundgarden in the film.
In 2001, after Rage Against the Machine’s lead singer, Zack de la Rocha, left the group, Mr. Cornell and members of the band formed Audioslave. The group released three albums before announcing its split in 2007.
In November 2016, Chris hit the road for the first time with another supergroup of sorts, Temple of the Dog, which features a blend of members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. The group was formed a quarter-century ago as a tribute to Andrew Wood, the lead singer of the Seattle bands Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone, who died in March 1990 of a heroin overdose.
Speaking to The New York Times, Chris said the group had decided to finally bring its songs to life to honor Mr. Wood. “I thought, well, this is one thing that I can do to remind myself and maybe other people of who this guy is and was and keep his story and in a way his life with us,” he said.
Incidentally, in a final footnote, I just learned that Chris was taking Antivan for depression. Two of the side effects of that drug can be “More Depression” and “Suicidal Thoughts.”
And in a final grim note, the final song of the show he played in Detroit that night. The final song Chris would ever play, was Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.”
Thanks to everyone for following phicklephilly right up to my 100th blog post. It just sucks that it had to be about this. The Cornell family are in our thoughts and prayers.
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