Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell died late Wednesday (May 17), Variety has confirmed. He was 52. The circumstances of his death were not immediately known, but the musician is believed to have died in Detroit, where Soundgarden performed on May 17.
A rep for the singer issued the following statement in the early hours of May 18:
“Chris Cornell passed away late Wednesday night in Detroit, MI. 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. They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty and ask that their privacy be respected at this time.”
Cornell, a key figure in the Seattle grunge scene, founded Soundgarden in 1984 with guitarist Kim Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Along with Green River — which ultimately split into two bands, Pearl Jam and Mudhoney — Soundgarden were the vanguards of the movement of long-haired, hard-rocking bands that emerged from the city in the mid-to-late 1980s. Their debut single, “Hunted Down,” was the first release on the soon-to-be deeply influential Sub Pop record label in the summer of 1987, and it was followed by the “Screaming Life” EP in November. The band’s sound, a then-unusual fusion of garagey indie rock with a slightly sarcastic take on the stadium-rock (Aerosmith, Kiss) that its members grew up on, found an audience as the band toured extensively. Yet Soundgarden’s members were wary of the optics of signing with a major label too quickly — even though they were already deep in negotiations with majors — and instead chose to release their debut full-length, 1988’s “Ultramega OK”; ironically, the band had already signed A&M at the time of the album’s release. The following year saw the band’s push for the big time: Its major label debut, “Louder Than Love,” arrived in the fall of 1989, and driven by songs like “Loud Love” and “Big Dumb Sex” (with its profane chorus), the band began finding an audience outside the indie scene that had nurtured it.