In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Seattle experienced an explosion of rock and roll that encompassed a punk attitude wrapped in a new wave of artistic expression. This revolution stamped a permanent and historic shift in rock music with bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Sound Garden. Chris Cornell was the co-founder and experimental lead vocalist for Sound Garden who not only led this movement, but went on to have an astoundingly successful career that spanned more than two decades.
Born and raised in Seattle, Chris Cornell was one of six children in a large Irish catholic family. He dropped out of school at age fifteen to play music and contribute his income to his household. Growing up, Chris dealt with depression and social anxiety to which he claims that Beatles records he found in an abandoned basement helped ease his pain and motivate him musically.
Sound Garden was Cornell’s first major success, marking them as a forerunner in the new “Seattle Grunge” sound. Their first album Ultramega OK got them a Grammy nomination as well as the attention of fans all over the world. Sound Garden’s peak was Superunknown, which became a Grammy award winning album as well a multi-platinum success. The song, “Black Hole Sun” is arguably the most famous song on their album and of their career. “Black Hole Sun” changed the way rock and roll sounded on mainstream television and radio and opened doors for future grunge bands to obtain commercial success.
After the breakup of Sound Garden in 1996, Chris released his first solo album, Euphoria Morning which was critically praised. Capturing lightening in a bottle for a second time, he then formed his next group Audioslave. He formed this group with several members from the well-known band, Rage Against the Machine. Audioslave achieved platinum level success, three Grammy nominations, and became the first American rock band to perform a live concert in Cuba. Chris Cornell left Audioslave in 2007 and continued writing solo music as well as reuniting with Sound Garden in 2010, touring the US.
It was after a Detroit show with Sound Garden on May 17, 2017 that Chris Cornell tragically took his own life. At age 52, Cornell was a beloved musician and artist that’s music not only transcended genre’s, but instilled hope in people who were unique and walked a line all their own. Chris had been quoted speaking about Kurt Cobain’s suicide saying, “My perception of the world of music at large artistically shrank, because suddenly this brilliant guy was gone.” Millions of fans all over the world can now relate to this feeling of loss. It is important to not only remember the brilliance of his music but to also take note that mental health should never be ignored or discredited. No matter how a life appears from the outside it is impossible to know what goes on inside one’s mind. Chris Cornell will be remembered as an innovator of one of the most important shifts in rock music and as an inspiration for all rock bands to follow in his wake.