Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, died Wednesday night, his representative told CNN.
Cornell, 52, was in Detroit performing with Soundgarden, which had embarked on a US tour in April. Brian Bumbery, his representative, called Cornell’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,” the 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.”
The Grammy-winning rocker had performed Wednesday night at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.
Soundgarden | 5.17.17 pic.twitter.com/uBC6rSXWg6
— Fox Theatre Detroit (@FoxTheatreDet) May 18, 2017
The grunge era
Cornell began his career in the Seattle rock scene forming the band Soundgarden in 1984, which was influential in the 1990s grunge movement.
Cornell became another in a line of lead singers from major grunge rock bands to pass away. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home in 1994. His death was ruled a suicide. Alice in Chains’ original singer, Layne Staley, died from a drug overdose in 2002. Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots died of an accidental overdose in 2015.
In interviews, Cornell discussed his past struggles with alcohol and the impact of his friends’ deaths from substance abuse.
“I’ve lost a lot of young, brilliant friends, people that I thought were very inspired,” he told Rolling Stone in 2015.
“They’re all young and these guys all had limitless potential in their lives in front of them.”
Soundgarden and Audioslave
Soundgarden predated both grunge pioneers Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but it wasn’t an overnight success.
The group hit its commercial peak with its breakout album, “Superunknown” in 1994, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for best rock album. Songs from that album, “Black Hole Sun” won best the Grammy for best hard rock performance, and the song “Spoonman” won for best metal performance that year.
The group disbanded in 1997 and released a greatest hits compilation the same year.
The breakup wasn’t anything unusual, Cornell told CNN in 2012. “It was just time for a break,” he said.
In 2001, Cornell joined with three former members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. Their most successful single, “Like a Stone” released in 2003.
The group’s defining moment was a 2005 concert in Cuba, which at the time was billed as the country’s first outdoor rock concert by an American band.
As the charismatic frontman, Cornell was known for his raw and soulful voice.
He also sang the theme song to the James Bond movie “Casino Royale” and released five solo albums
Remembering the rock star
Soundgarden came back on stage in 2010 for festival performances and had recently started touring again. The band tweeted Wednesday night a quote from Cornell: “What I look forward to the most…is the camaraderie. It’s what we missed when we weren’t a band.”
— Soundgarden (@soundgarden) May 16, 2017
Rocker Dave Navarro mourned the loss of Cornell, tweeting: “Such a terrible and sad loss! Thinking of his family tonight! RIP.”
Cornell said he offered minimal explanation for his songs, because he wanted fans to come up with their own meanings.
“If I write a song and put it out there, it’s not mine anymore,” he told CNN. “It takes on a life of its own, and when you listen to it, it becomes your song. And over the course of generations, those meanings will change.”