“I don’t believe in a healing process.”
Cornell is gone at 52-years-old.
Living in Seattle in the 1980s and 1990s, Soundgarden couldn’t have had a bigger impact on the culture of that city. The band formed in 1984, and I remember when they were playing small venues and advertised their gigs with flyers stapled to telephone poles around town.
The band consisted of Cornell on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron joined as band’s drummer in 1986, and Ben Shepherd replaced Yamamoto in 1990. Thayil is now the only remaining original Soundgarden member left.
Soundgarden was one of the seminal bands of the Grunge Movement. Grunge was a musical and fashion, or anti-fashion style that started in Seattle. Soundgarden and was one of the first bands signed to the new record label Sub Pop. They were one the first Grunge bands to sign to a major label, going with A&M Records in 1988. They helped put the Seattle sound on the map along with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Alice In Chains.
Cornell suddenly and unexpectedly left this world last night at MGM Grand Detroit where Soundgarden was giving a concert. Detroit police say they are investigating Cornell’s death as a possible suicide.
Cornell was still going strong and the band was in the middle of a sold-out US tour. He closed last night’s show with the Soundgarden song Slaves & Bulldozers, with an interpolation of Led Zeppelin’s In My Time Of Dying.
He had been in NYC in April for a screening of the new Christian Bale film The Promise, in the company his two daughters. He had written a song for the film also called The Promise.
Cornell and Soundgarden won Grammy Awards for Black Hole Sun and Spoonman. They were nominated for seven other Grammy Awards. The band sold more than 10 million albums in the USA.
Cornell had an astonishing four-octave vocal range and he worked in other genres including Folk and straight up Rock. Cornell also formed the supergroup Audioslave, with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk. He also had a successful career as a solo artist and songwriter including providing the theme for the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006)
He had five solo albums, starting with Euphoria Morning (1999). His last, Higher Truth (2015) reached the Top 20 in the USA. His soundtrack for the film Machine Gun Preacher (2011) brought him a Golden Globe nomination.
Cornell struggled with drugs and alcohol since he was 13-years-old. But, he said he had been been sober since 2003, when he went into rehab. At the time, Cornell said in an interview in Spin:
“I’m learning that I can be teachable at age 38…”
He claimed that he used to drink before shows, but when booze got in the way of his mountain biking and other activities, it became a problem. When Soundgarden reformed in 2011, Cornell said:
“The biggest difference is, there are no bottles of Jack Daniels around or beers”.
I spent an afternoon with Cornell on a spring day in 1992 when we were both filming Cameron Crowe’s film set in the Seattle Grunge scene, Singles. His was jaw-droppingly handsome and his charisma was off the charts. We had lunch together, just the two of us as everyone else had been called to the set. Oddly, we didn’t talk about music, even though we both were musicians, or the Seattle scene, although that was the theme of the film. Cornell mentioned the California poppies that were growing in the pavement cracks:
“They must really want to live to make a home in that concrete.”
He was very, very sweet to me. The news this morning had me feeling especially sad.