Tuesday 25 July 2017

Obituary: Chris Cornell

Charismatic frontman for US bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, and pioneer of the Seattle grunge scene

ROCKER: Chris Cornell
ROCKER: Chris Cornell
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Chris Cornell, who has died aged 52, was the lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of the grunge rock band Soundgarden, best known for their powerfully melodic 1994 international hit Black Hole Sun; he later formed the rock supergroup Audioslave with former members of Rage Against the Machine.

A highly charismatic frontman, Cornell possessed one of the most spectacular voices in rock, and his almost four-octave range was often compared to that of Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant.

Cornell could growl and scream when required but he could also sing with an almost operatic tunefulness that elevated all his music beyond its grunge roots.

His output included four solo albums, a gentler one-off album with the group Temple of the Dog, and, in 2006, the hit single You Know My Name, the theme for the James Bond film Casino Royale.

One of six children, Christopher John Boyle Cornell was born on July 20, 1964 in Seattle.

He was educated at Christ the King Catholic elementary school and Shorewood High School in the city, but was an anxious and solitary child; between the ages of nine and 11 he listened solidly to The Beatles.

Throughout his teenage years Cornell suffered from spells of depression when music provided an escape. After a period in a Seattle cover band, The Shemps, in 1984 he co-founded Soundgarden, taking the band's name from a large wind-activated sculpture in a Seattle sculpture park.

The band - which specialised in a dark and brooding sound that combined heavy metal with elements of punk - were one of the earliest to emerge from the Seattle grunge scene.

They were signed to A & M records in 1989, two years before Nirvana brought grunge to international attention with their ground-breaking album Nevermind.

In 1992, Cornell had a hit single, Hunger Strike, with his other band, Temple of the Dog, after which Soundgarden's fourth album Superunknown (1994) launched several singles for the band, such as the UK Top 20 hits Black Hole Sun and Spoonman, both of which won Grammy Awards. Superunknown sold more than nine million copies.

More albums followed, but in 1998 Soundgarden disbanded, due to creative tensions, although Cornell later blamed the break-up on the punishing touring schedule.

From the late 1990s, Cornell interspersed a varied solo career - including a collaboration with the rapper Timbaland - with recording and performing with Audioslave, for whom Cornell wrote the surreal lyrics of their first three albums.

His fellow band member Tim Morello praised Cornell's songwriting as "haunted, existential poetry", although it was not universally appreciated, one critic describing his lyrics as bordering "on the ridiculous".

Cornell left Audioslave in 2006, reuniting with Soundgarden in 2012, after which they released a sixth studio album, King Animal. Audioslave reunited earlier this year at the Prophets of Rage Anti-Inaugural Ball, protesting against Donald Trump's presidency.

From his teens until his later 30s, Cornell was afflicted by drug and alcohol addiction. In 2012 he and his second wife set up the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation to support vulnerable children. He was on tour with Soundgarden when he was found dead in his hotel room in Detroit. Suicide was the cause of death.

He married the manager of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, Susan Silver, in 1990. After their divorce in 2004, he married Vicky Karayiannis.

She survives him with their son and daughter and a daughter from his first marriage. Chris Cornell died on May 17.

Sunday Independent

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