Grunge pioneer lauded for on­stage charisma, vo­cal range

Times Colonist - - Arts - MESFIN FEKADU

Chris Cor­nell had be­come one of the most lauded and re­spected con­tem­po­rary lead singers in rock mu­sic, thanks to his charis­matic en­ergy on­stage and wide vo­cal range. He was a leader of the grunge move­ment with Seat­tle­based Soundgar­den — with whom he gained crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial ac­claim — but also found suc­cess out­side the band with other projects, in­clud­ing Au­dioslave, Tem­ple of the Dog as well as solo al­bums.

His death Wed­nes­day night stunned his fam­ily and his diehard fans, for whom Cor­nell just per­formed hours ear­lier at a show in Detroit. The city’s med­i­cal ex­am­iner said in a pre­lim­i­nary au­topsy re­sult Thurs­day that the 52-year-old singer killed him­self by hang­ing. A po­lice spokesman told two Detroit news­pa­pers that the singer was found with a band around his neck.

Soundgar­den’s cur­rent tour kicked off in late April and was planned to run through May 27.

In re­cent years, Cor­nell had take to al­ter­nat­ing Soundgar­den tours with his own solo treks, dur­ing which he played mostly acous­tic guitar, pe­formed cover songs and chat­ted with the au­di­ence. His solo out­ings proved hugely pop­u­lar, with sold-out dates in Vic­to­ria at the Royal Theatre in 2011 and the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria’s Far­quhar Au­di­to­rium in 2013.

“It’s fun to try to fig­ure out dif­fer­ent songs that I can in­ter­pret acous­ti­cally and see if they’ll work or not,” Cor­nell said dur­ing a 2011 in­ter­view with Times Colonist re­porter Mike Devlin.

“Some of them do and some of them don’t. But it’s fun to ex­per­i­ment with that and be sur­prised by the songs that seem to work that I wouldn’t ex­pect.”

His fi­nal Vic­to­ria ap­pear­ance, an­other sold-out show, was at the Royal Theatre less than a year ago, on July 21, 2016.

Cor­nell was widely re­spected in the mu­sic in­dus­try: He reached suc­cess in ev­ery band lineup he was part of it, his voice was mem­o­rable and pow­er­ful, and he was a skilled song­writer, even col­lab­o­rat­ing on a num­ber of film soundtracks, in­clud­ing the James Bond theme song for 2006’s Casino Royale and The Keeper from the film Ma­chine Gun Preacher, which earned Cor­nell a Golden Globe nom­i­na­tion.

Cor­nell, who grew up in Seat­tle, said he was kicked out of school at age 15 and he started us­ing drugs at 13.

“I went from be­ing a daily drug user at 13 to hav­ing bad drug ex­pe­ri­ences and quit­ting drugs by the time I was 14 and then not hav­ing any friends un­til the time I was 16,” he told Rolling Stone in 1994.

But at 16 he grew se­ri­ous about mu­sic, learn­ing to play the drums while also work­ing as a bus­boy and dish­washer.

He even­tu­ally be­came a Grammy win­ner with Soundgar­den, formed in 1984 and com­ing out of the rapidly grow­ing Seat­tle mu­sic scene, which in­cluded Nir­vana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.

The band, which had re­leased hit songs and found suc­cess, marked a main­stream break­through with Su­pe­run­k­nown, its 1994 al­bum that launched five sin­gles, won them two Gram­mys and sold more than five mil­lion units in the U.S.

The group, formed with gui­tarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Ya­mamoto, broke up in 1997.

In 2001, Cor­nell joined Au­dioslave, a su­per­group that in­cluded former Rage Against the Ma­chine mem­bers Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Com­mer­ford. The band re­leased three al­bums in six years.

Au­dioslave dis­banded in 2007, but Cor­nell and Soundgar­den re­united in 2010 and re­leased the band’s sixth stu­dio al­bum, King An­i­mal, in 2012.

Cor­nell also col­lab­o­rated with mem­bers of what would be­come Pearl Jam to form Tem­ple of the Dog, which pro­duced a self-ti­tled al­bum in 1991 in trib­ute to friend An­drew Wood, former front­man of Mother Love Bone. In 2011, he was ranked ninth on Rolling Stone list of the best lead singers of all time, se­lected by its read­ers.

Cor­nell also re­leased solo al­bums, and Nielsen Mu­sic said as a band mem­ber and solo act, the singer sold al­most 15 mil­lion al­bums and 8.8 mil­lion dig­i­tal songs in the U.S.

His first solo al­bum, 1999’s Eu­pho­ria Morn­ing, was a dark al­bum that was ini­tially sup­posed to be ti­tled Eu­pho­ria Mourn­ing.

“It was a pretty dark al­bum lyri­cally and pretty de­press­ing, and I was go­ing through a re­ally dif­fi­cult time in my life — my band wasn’t to­gether any­more, my mar­riage was fall­ing apart and I was deal­ing with it by drink­ing way too much, and that has its own prob­lems, par­tic­u­larly with de­pres­sion,” he told Rolling Stone in 2015.

Chris Cor­nell died Wed­nes­day at age 52.

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