Chris Cornell, Soundgarden and Audioslave Frontman, Dead at 52

By Damian Fanelli | Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Singer Chris Cornell, best known for fronting Soundgarden and Audioslave, died Wednesday night, May 17. He was 52. Cornell was in Detroit performing at the Fox Theatre with Soundgarden, which had kicked off a U.S. tour last month.

Brian Bumbery, Cornell’s representative, called the singer’s passing “sudden and unexpected” in a statement to CNN. “His wife Vicky and family were shocked to learn of his sudden and unexpected passing, and they will be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause,” Bumbery’s statement read.

“They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty and ask that their privacy be respected at this time.”

Cornell was scheduled to perform again this Friday in Columbus, Ohio. He actually posted a message to Twitter just a few hours before his death was reported, writing, “#Detroit finally back to Rock City!!!”

Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Cornell formed Soundgarden with guitarist Kim Thyail and bassist Hiro Yamamoto in 1984. Soundgarden were the first grunge band to sign to a major label (A&M in 1988), paving the way for Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. They’d go on to become a major part of the Nineties grunge movement despite disbanding in 1997. They eventually returned in 2010 with a string of festival performances and tours—and released a new album (King Animal) in 2012.

In 2001, Cornell teamed up with three former members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. They released their most successful single, “Like a Stone,” in 2003 and broke up in 2007. On January 20, 2017, three days after announcing their reunion, Audioslave performed together for the first time in over a decade at Prophets of Rage’s Anti-Inaugural Ball.

Cornell also sang the theme song to the James Bond movie Casino Royale and enjoyed a successful solo touring and recording career, often appearing solo with an acoustic guitar.

Last year, he spoke about how playing acoustically has tied together his entire career. “In some strange way, it’s made sense of my 30-odd years of song writing,” he told The Independent.

“All the different bands and solo projects and everything in-between are all so varied and eclectic. I wanted to string all that together somehow in an acoustic show and I think it’s the first time that it can all be in one show and make sense.”

Cornell graced the cover of Guitar World (with Soundgarden) several times over the decades, and GW readers even voted him “the greatest rock vocalist of all time” around four years ago. Stay tuned for updates and more details.

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