We had the time of our lives in the last decade and I’m sorry, my sweet love, that I did not see what happened to you that night. I’m sorry you were alone, and I know that was not you, my sweet Christopher. Your children know that too, so you can rest in peace.
– Vicky Cornell from an open letter to late husband, Chris Cornesll
I read a review many years ago calling Soundgarden “the thinking man’s hard rock band”. They certainly took their sonic cues from the sludgy riffs of Sabbath and the grand blues-rock of Zeppelin, but these boys weren’t singing about wizards and middle earth. They were burning dinosaur bones, looking California, feeling Minnesota, stay off their wave…Soundgarden adopted the DIY aesthetic of punk and gave metal a place at the alternative table.
At the center of the sound was Chris Cornell. He possessed a voice that seemed born to soar over churning guitars and pounding drums. It had a spectacular four octave range that could wail, howl and groan, but could also give a ballad a transcendent aura. That voice is now silenced.
What we know is that his death was suicide by hanging, according to the Wayne County medical examiner. As of this writing a full toxicology report is pending. Chris’ family has disputed the findings saying he may have taken more of an anxiety drug than he was prescribed. Soundgarden had just completed a show at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Brian Bumbery, Cornell’s representative called it “sudden and unexpected”.
“Chris was as melodic as The Beatles, as rocking as Sabbath and as haunting as Edgar Allan Poe,” said Tom Morello, Cornell’s band mate in the supergroup Audioslave, during his eulogy.
He had said many times in interviews he had struggled with drugs, loneliness, and depression. He once referred to himself as a “pioneer” in the abuse of the opiate Oxycontin. That all seemed to be behind him as a close friend recently said, “I’ve never seen him have more than a Diet Coke”.
Besides Soundgarden, he recorded several solo albums and was a member of Audioslave and Temple of the Dog. He was laid to rest in Hollywood Cemetery Forever not far from the grave of Johnny Ramone.