Chris Cornell, the legendary frontman of Soundgarden, one of the pioneers of Seattle's popular grunge sound in the 1990s, died last night following a sold out performance in Detroit. His death was ruled suicide by hanging by the Wayne County Medical Examiner. He was 52-years old.
His last performance may have been his farewell message to the world. His final performance was a cover of Led Zeppelin's cover of "In My Time of Dyin'” itself a cover of legendary blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson's song "See That My Grave is Kept Clean." It's first line: "In my time of dying, I don’t want nobody to mourn."
He was discovered in the bathroom of his hotel room by a friend his wife Vicky had asked to check on him. For a while it had looked like Cornell was ready to get on with his life and do his best to find a new way of looking at the world. He teamed up with former members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave, did some well received male modeling, recorded solo records, and even became a restaurateur.
Spin Magazine spoke to him eleven years ago and found him looking forward to a life without alcohol and drugs. He had what seemed to be a good marriage, two kids--he had one with his first wife, Susan Silver, who had managed both Soundgarden and Alice in Chains--and said that he wanted to be awake for it all.
Here he is covering Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” with his oldest daughter, Toni:
In his final posting to Twitter, he tweeted before his last show: "Finally back to Rock City!!!!" along with a photo of Fox Theater’s marquee. He was remembered in the coverage following his death by The Daily Beast as a rock god and a pioneer of the grunge sound that saw Seattle become its Mecca. With Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Alice in Chain's Layne Staley, he was remembered as one of the front men who made grunge cool. Rolling Stone called Seattle “Grunge City”.
Not everyone saw his suicide coming. Fan Allanah Wills told the Detroit News that she was impressed with Cornell’s showmanship at Wednesday’s concert. “The show was honestly great,” said Wills, 26, of Windsor. “Nothing seemed off or anything, as far as I could tell,” Wills said. "Cornell was praising the Detroit crowd and saying the next city on the tour had a lot to live up to.” She said he was lively and mobile and interactive [with the crowd].”
How will Cornell be remembered? For his masculine, piercing, feral wail, certainly, but also as someone who was a star in the age of anti-stars, as an innovator who purveyed a new kind of hard rock, and as an underrated songwriter who died far too young. Jimmy Page remembered him this way: “RIP Chris Cornell, incredibly talented, incredibly young, incredibly missed.”