In the early hours of 18 May 2017, Chris Cornell committed suicide an hour after his band, Soundgarden, ended a concert. Many Music Man readers know who Chris Cornell was, but others won’t. Cornell was No. 4 on Hit Parader’s “Heavy Metal’s All-Time Top 100 Vocalists”, No. 9 on Rolling Stone’s “Best Lead Singers of All Time”, No. 80 on Rolling Stone’s “200 Greatest Singers of All Time”, No. 12 on MTV’s “22 Greatest Voices in Music”, and was voted “Rock’s Greatest Singer” by Guitar World readers.
Cornell played in Soundgarden, which he co-founded in 1984, Audioslave (a “supergroup” formed when Cornell replaced Zack de la Rocha in Rage Against the Machine), and Temple of the Dog (a tribute band to Cornell’s late friend Andrew Wood). He also released solo albums and won three Grammy’s for contributions to soundtracks. Of relevance to our first video, the song Rick Rubin chose to showcase Cornell to the De La Rocha-less Rage Against the Machine was Soundgarden’s Slaves & Bulldozers.
Terribly sad, isn’t it. Cornell suffered from depression which was exacerbated by a single, very bad experience with PCP when he was 14, drug and alcohol abuse from the age of twelve, and his family environment (his parents were alcoholics). Cornell said, “You often hear that pot leads to harder drugs. But I think alcohol is what leads you on. It takes away the fear. The worst drug experimentation I ever did was because I was drunk and didn’t care.” Cornell was a functional addict until 1997.
The wheels came off in 1997, when his first marriage fell apart and Soundgarden broke up. Speaking of this time, Cornell said, “I eventually found that the only way out of that was to change virtually everything in my life. That was a very frightening thing to do, but it was worthwhile.” He took himself to rehab in 2002 and managed to stop drinking and smoking around 2005. Soundgarden reformed in 2010. I’m sure you’re keen to hear this track uninterrupted – here is Chris Cornell’s last song:
Powerful isn’t it, especially the inclusion of Led Zeppelin’s In My Time of Dying. Speaking in 2013 about Soundgarden reuniting, Chris Cornell said, “There are no bottles of Jack Daniel’s around or beers. And we never talked about it… it’s just not there.”
After Cornell’s death, the medical examiner found that the cause of death was “consistent with hanging, partially suspended by the resistance exercise band” that was found around Cornell’s neck and that “drugs did not contribute” to the cause of death. Only prescription medicines in appropriate doses were found in his system.
The Detroit Police Department released a full report on July 11, 2017. Vicky, Cornell’s wife, spoke to Cornell by telephone from 11.35pm, 17 May 2017. She was alarmed by how he sounded and by his slurred words. At 12.15 am, prompted by Vicky, Cornell’s bodyguard went to check on him. He couldn’t get in the locked room, and the hotel security declined to help. After phoning Vicky, he kicked the door in and found Cornell. Cornell failed to respond to resuscitation attempts.
As we heard in the first video, Vicky Cornell and her children filed a charge against his doctor for “negligently and repeatedly” prescribed “dangerous mind-altering controlled substances to Chris Cornell which impaired Mr. Cornell’s cognition, clouded his judgment, and caused him to engage in dangerous impulsive behaviors that he was unable to control, costing him his life.” The prescription drugs included Butalbital (for headaches) and lorazepam, known as Ativan, for anxiety. The parties settled by confidential agreement in April 2021. Here is O2’s TV news report on the funeral of Chris Cornell: