While most famous musicians associated with Seattle music moved there to get in on the action, Chris Cornell was born in Seattle, which put him in perfect position for the popular music scene that sprung up there in the '80s. He attended Christ the King elementary school and Shorewood High School in Seattle. Before becoming a musician, he worked at a seafood wholesaler and later as a sous chef at place called Ray's Boathouse.
Cornell formed Soundgarden with guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto in 1984. Cornell played drums in the band but Matt Cameron from Skin Yard became the band's permanent drummer in 1986. Cameron would later join Pearl Jam.
He was good friends and a former roommate of Andrew Wood, who was lead singer of the Seattle band Mother Love Bone. On March 16, 1990, Wood overdosed on heroin and was kept alive on life support, where Cornell saw him before he was allowed to die on March 19. It was a defining moment for Cornell, who was enjoying life in a successful band amid a supportive, vibrant music scene in his hometown. "Andy was kind of like this beam of light above it all," said Cornell. "To see him hooked up to machines, that was, I think, the death of the innocence of the scene."
Chris Cornell released his first solo album Euphoria Morning through Interscope Records in 1999. The album didn't do as well as Soundgarden's albums but still managed to sell 75,000 copies in its first week of release.
While recording his second solo album, Chris Cornell was involved in a motorcycle accident in Los Angeles, where he was rear-ended by a truck and flew 20 feet in the air. He suffered severe cuts and bruises but continued recording his album later that day.
He covered Michael Jackson's song "Billie Jean
" on his second album Carry On
. American Idol
contestant David Cook later performed Cornell's version of the song on the popular reality show.
Cornell wrote and recorded the song "You Know My Name" for the James Bond movie Casino Royale in 2006. The song played over the opening credits of the movie but did not appear on the soundtrack. Cornell released the song as a bonus track on his second album Carry On in 2007.
In 2011, Chris Cornell released an acoustic solo album called Songbook. The record features Cornell performing a mix of Soundgarden, solo, and cover songs in a live setting. Two notable covers on the record are "Thank You" by Led Zeppelin and "Imagine" by John Lennon.
Chris Cornell was found dead in a hotel room at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel on May 18, 2017 shortly after playing a concert with Soundgarden at the city's Fox Theatre. The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office said that Cornell died as a result of a "suicide by hanging."