Chris Cornell Helped Create a Rock Genre

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Chris Cornell, 2012 (Via his Facebook page)

The rock world was shocked this morning (May 18) to learn of the sudden death of Chris Cornell, the lead vocalist, primary songwriter and rhythm guitarist of Soundgarden, and one of the architects of the grunge movement. Cornell, who was also a key member of the band Audioslave, was found dead in his hotel room following a performance by the band in Detroit.

On Thursday afternoon, an announcement was issued by the Detroit Police Dept. stating that Cornell’s death was a suicide by hanging. Cornell was 52.

Cornell’s death was confirmed by Brian Bumbery, a publicist, who called the passing “sudden and unexpected.”

Prior to the show Cornell tweeted, “Finally back to Rock City!!!!”

Read how classic rock stars Jimmy Page, Alice Cooper, Elton John, and more, are responding to Cornell’s death here.

Watch Soundgarden’s “Spoonman” video

Cornell was born Christopher John Boyle in Seattle on July 20, 1964. In the early ’80s he was a member of a cover band called the Shemps, which also included bassist Hiro Yamamoto and guitarist Kim Thayil. The trio formed Soundgarden in 1984. Matt Cameron was added as drummer in 1986, and in 1990 bassist Ben Shepherd replaced Yamamoto.

Soundgarden became locally popular in the Seattle region and signed to A&M Records in 1988. By the early ’90s, they, along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains and others, were being categorized as leaders of a new hard rock genre, called grunge, that fell someplace between metal and punk in its aggressiveness, a remedy of sorts to the more commercialized direction much rock had taken in the ’80s.

Watch Chris Cornell perform “Black Hole Sun” on CBS This Morning in April

Soundgarden’s debut album, 1988’s Ultramega OK, was nominated for a Best Metal Performance Grammy. It was followed by Louder Than Love in 1989. Badmotorfinger (1991) was also nominated for Best Metal Performance. The track “Spoonman” won the 1993 Best Metal Performance Grammy, as did “Black Hole Sun” in 1995. The latter was their first single to reach the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (peaking at #24).

Soundgarden in the ’90s

The band hit its commercial peak with 1994’s Superunknown, which reached #1. It was followed by 1996’s Down on the Upside, by which time the band had risen to superstar status, performing on the Lollapalooza tour and overseas. By 1997, however, internal conflicts had overtaken them, and Soundgarden announced its breakup on April 9 of that year.

Cornell released his debut solo album, Euphoria Morning, in 1999, touring behind the album through early 2000. In 2007 Cornell released his second solo album, Carry On, followed by Scream (2009), Songbook (2011) and Higher Truth (2015).

In addition, he was always busy with side projects. In 1991, Cornell teamed up with Cameron and Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Mike McCready, releasing one self-titled album as Temple of the Dog, which reached #5 in the U.S. And in 2001, Cornell, along with Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, formed Audioslave, which released three albums: Audioslave (2002), Out of Exile (2005) and Revelations (2006).

Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and had been active since, releasing King Animal in 2012. The future of the band, as of now, is unknown.

Watch Soundgarden at their final gig, in Detroit, last night

Coincidentally, Legacy Recordings is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Cameron Crowe’s groundbreaking romantic comedy, Singles, with the release on Friday, May 19, of a newly expanded and remastered edition of the soundtrack. The film was set in Seattle and captured the zeitgeist of an era among twentysomethings and featured music from bands that were relatively obscure at the time.

The 2-CD, 2-LP collection features previously unreleased recordings by Cornell plus rarities such as his 1992 EP Poncier and tracks from the film not included on the album when it was first released on June 30, 1992. Other acts on the album include Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and Paul Westerberg.

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