Every few years a music star so big that marks an entire generation appears. These people become the voice of thousands, and the sound of an era, and without a doubt, Chris Cornell was one of them. In the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s a huge ideological and cultural shift took place. A new genre born in the streets of Seattle with strung drums, accelerated rhythms, guitar distortions, and strong lyrics appeared in the scene.
His early life
Born on July 20th of the year 1964 in Seattle, Christopher John Boyle, better known as Chris Cornell was a singer/songwriter/guitarist lead of the band Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog. From an early age, he showed an interest in music and at 7 years old he got into piano lessons.
At the age of 14, he went into a deep depression caused by the divorce of his parents Ed Boyle and Karen Cornell, which made him and his five siblings adopt his mother’s last name. This state caused him to not leave the house for a year, in which he left the piano lessons and dedicated to learning how to play the guitar and drums. After retiring from studying he started to work as a kitchen helper.
Soon after this, he formed his first band called “The Jonas Street Band”; mainly dedicated to performing covers of bands such as AC/DC, The Ramones, Sex Pistols and Rush. Aside from this, his other inspiration at a young age came from bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Alice Cooper, but especially from The Beatles. He found a big inspiration in the way the Beatles did “whatever they wanted” and has said to spend around a year listening to the entire catalog of their music. Cornell had found an escape in music, it was his way of expressing himself.
A few years later in 1982, he moved on to another band called The Shems, founded by Matt Domino, who was a personal friend of guitarist Kim Thayil. After playing in various presentations with them, he and bassist Hiro Yamamoto moved together. It was then in 1984 that Chris, Hiro, and Kim formed a new band called Soundgarden, with Cornell in the drums. The next year Scott Sundquist would join the band as the new drummer while Chris moved on to be the vocalist. From that moment on, Seattle and the world of music was never the same again.
With this original formation they recorded their first themes which would be published in the respiratory album “Deep Six”, but this life was not for everybody. Just the next year, in 1986 Sundquist left the band to get a job and ended up being replaced by Matt Cameron, who would be the full-time drummer of Soundgarden from ’till the end.
Once the new group got their stuff together they finally released their very first album titled Screaming Life in 1987. Soundgarden caught the eye of producers all around, the next year their second EP called Fopp. Though the first album was pretty successful already this second one got praise and overwhelmingly great reception.
Big names were all over the place trying to sign with Soundgarden. It was with A&M Records that they recorded “Louder than Love”. In 1989. Their first album with a multinational. It was then that the band was to lose yet another original member, as Hiro Yamamoto left the band to get back into his studies. The band wasn’t short a member for a while, since that very same year Jason Everman, ex-guitar player in Nirvana, would take his place.
Everman, however, was not to be the definitive replacement for Yamamoto since he would only go on to appear in the Louder than Live video. Right after that, he would be replaced by Ben Shepherd, the man who would become the permanent drummer at Soundgarden.
Louder than Love was their first step into global music, making them a big name all around the world. Earning Soundgarden nominations at the Grammy Awards of that year, it became a bit of trouble for the band too.
Their fan base would be harshly affected and even divided. On the one hand, there were huge new audiences, with thousands of new people enjoying their music, but on the other, there were the original fans. These were the fans that came from the punk movement abandoned them once they were signed off by a big publisher. Playing in big labels with bands like Guns ‘N Roses to them meant they were sellouts.
At the beginning of this new stage for the band that part of the fan base was convinced Soundgarden was going against their roots and would leave them. But the ability of Soundgarden to keep both sides happy later on was one of the Keys of their success as a band
By the Year 1994, Soundgarden released “Superunknown”, one of their most popular albums in the grunge specter. With Memorable themes such as “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman”, they confirmed their name among the royalty of grunge. However, the tour for this album had to be delayed due to medical reasons. Chris Cornell was facing a problem in his vocal cords which threatened to leave lifelong consequences.
In 1996 the album “Last Temptation” was released, but by the year 1997 the band was dissolved, releasing one last album called “A & B Sides”. This last album is a compilation of Soundgarden’s best themes.
Chris Cornell became famous thanks to Soundgarden, a band that to this day stays at the top of the 90’s bands along with Nirvana and Alice In Chains. Cornell’s voice was quickly recognizable thanks to its amazing range and power.
But since Chris Cornel couldn’t possibly live without making music his career didn’t stop there. In the year 1999, he would release a new soloist album called Euphoria Morning. He would go on tour with this band, and even though it delivered a different style of music with soft rock and melodic notes it didn’t land a big commercial success.
In the early 2000’s he would go on and form the band Audioslave, one of the most prolific bands of the first decade of the Millenium. More mature sound and a mix of inspirations made Cornell get to a different level with his music. Of course, it wouldn’t stop there. He would also make a band called Temple of the Dog and even managed to release 4 albums as a solo artist.
In 2010 Cornell announced the reunion of Soundgarden once again, marking a new era for the band. A new spirit and new energy would come to a new century, earning tons of new fans and shining bright with the older ones.
Cornell could never stay away from music, he was made for that. In 2015 he would release a solo album called “Higher Truth” which was, once again, a complete success. Dark themes, heavy strong lyrics, and powerful notes were some of the top points of the album. “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” was the most popular theme in there, but the haunting images in the music video were Cornell played a man condemned to hanging would become a terrifying image.
On May 18th of 2017, Chris Cornell was found dead in the hotel where he was staying, right after the last presentation of the Soundgarden reunion, hanging was established as the cause of death.
A man with one of the best voices in the history of music, with a very successful career and a passion for music, had left the world. Chris Cornell fought a battle against severe depression and alcohol problems for years, but his music and art inspired millions of people around the world to follow their dreams and his legacy is there right in the history of music.