Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog, died late Wednesday, May 17, according to multiple sources. The 52-year-old singer was on tour with Soundgarden and staying at the MGM Grand Casino Hotel, where a friend forced open the door to his hotel room and found him unresponsive. Detroit police confirmed to Variety that they are treating the death as a possible suicide.
Earlier last night, Cornell had performed with Soundgarden at Detroit's Fox Theatre, where he appeared to be healthy and in good spirits, according to local news reports.
Cornell's publicist, Brian Bumbery, issued a statement confirming the death. “His wife Vicky and family were shocked to learn of his sudden passing, and they will be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause. They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty and ask that their privacy be respected at this time.”
Cornell rose to prominence in the early '90s as the lead singer, rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter for Soundgarden, one of numerous bands to emerge from the Seattle grunge scene. He was known for his remarkable vocal range as well as his songwriting; the group's biggest hit, 1994's “Black Hole Sun,” has become a staple of rock radio and been covered by dozens of artists, from Peter Frampton to Paul Anka.
Born in Seattle on June 20, 1964, Cornell formed Soundgarden in 1984 with guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. He would go on to sing in the short-lived grunge supergroup Temple of the Dog, alongside members of Pearl Jam, and later in the hard rock band Audioslave, with former members of Rage Against the Machine. He also had a successful solo career, releasing five albums under his own name including his final studio project, 2015's Higher Truth.
In recent years, Cornell seemed to be enjoying a career resurgence, reuniting with all his former bands and becoming a frequent presence at charity concerts. Soundgarden reunited in 2010 after a long hiatus, Temple of the Dog reformed for their first and only tour just last year, and Audioslave performed a brief one-off set at the “Anti-Inaugural Ball” at the Teragram Ballroom in January of this year. In an interview with L.A. Weekly for a recent profile, Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello said that when he asked Cornell to do the reunion show, the singer immediately wrote back, “Where do I need to be?”
“It was really cool,” Morello said of that performance. “It was wonderful to reconnect as a band.”
Although police are investigating Cornell's death as a possible suicide, no cause of death has been officially determined. We will have more on this story as it develops.