Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden and Audioslave vocalist whose unmistakable voice was a totem of the grunge-rock movement of the 1990s, has died, according to a representative. He was 52 years old.
According to a statement released by representative Brian Bumbery and reported by the Associated Press, Cornell died Wednesday night in Detroit, where a reunited Soundgarden had just played the Fox Theatre.
His death was “sudden and unexpected,” and Bumbery said the Cornell family would be “working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause.”
Update #2 (2:02 p.m.):
Per the Associated Press, “a medical examiner has determined that Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell killed himself by hanging.” Two Detroit newspapers reported a police spokesperson as saying Cornell was found with “a band around his neck,” though a different police spokesperson said they could not confirm that detail.
Update #1 (9:57 a.m.):
According to the Associated Press, Detroit police have said they are investigating Cornell’s death as a possible suicide. Police spokesman Michael Woody said he couldn’t divulge details, but told the AP that there were “basic things observed at the scene.” Woody said Cornell’s wife had called a friend asking that they check on Cornell. After breaking through the hotel room door, the friend found Cornell on the bathroom floor.
Watch a clip of Cornell’s final performance, hours before his death,
formed in 1984 with Cornell on drums and vocals, and quickly became one of Seattle’s most beloved bands thanks to a stormy mix of percussive guitar rock and soaring vocals. Their debut for A&M Records, 1989’s Louder Than Love, was one of the blueprints for what would become “grunge” music, slowing down the hyper-rhythms of punk and speed metal, with Cornell’s siren-like yowl giving the music a sonic grounding that traced back to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.
It wasn't until a decade later, though, that the band achieved national and worldwide recognition as part of the grunge era ushered in by fellow Seattle outfits Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Soundgarden first made national waves with their 1991 album Badmotorfinger. Their breakout record, 1994's Superunknown, was nominated for a Grammy for best rock album. A single from the album, “Black Hole Sun” won the Grammy for best hard-rock performance, and another, “Spoonman,” won for best metal performance.
Superunknown shot to No. 1 on the charts in the spring of 1994 behind “Black Hole Sun” and the album's title track, confirming grunge's place as a fully mainstream movement. About a month later, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain shot himself, signaling the beginning of the end of grunge.
Four years after Soundgarden's breakup in 1997, Cornell formed Audioslave with three former members of Rage Against the Machine. They released their most successful single, “Like a Stone,” in 2003. Cornell also released five solo albums, the last being 2015's Higher Truth.
Three Soundgarden songs—”Outshined,” “Black Hole Sun” and “Superunknown”—made Pastes's ranking of the 50 Best Grunge Songs in 2014.