News November 19, 2017

Aussie music biz mourns Chris Cornell

Aussie music biz mourns Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell was still at the top of his game when he played his final show with Soundgarden.

It was on Wednesday night at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. During their two-hour show, one of the most essential singers to emerge from ‘90s American rock was compelling to watch.

He hit the right notes, interacted more with the audience than usual, and repeatedly told the audience they were the best.

“I have bragged about Detroit crowds for 30 years… There’s no other crowd that never, ever disappoints.” 

The set covered the expected Black Hole Sun, Spoonman, Burden In My Hand and My Wave, while also reaching back to Hunted Down from their first Sub Pop EP and early album tracks as Mailman and Kickstand.

There was something poignant about the way he threw in Led Zeppelin’s In My Time of Dying into the final song Slaves & Bulldozers

During the encore, Cornell added that, “Detroit, you guys…show up! I feel sorry for the next place we play… but we don’t have the same expectations.” 

Hours later, he was found dead in his hotel room at the MGM Grand Detroit. He was 52.

His wife had asked a friend to check on him. He broke down the door and found the singer unresponsive on the floor of the bathroom. It was midnight.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the cause of death as hanging, considered self-inflicted.

Jimmy Page tweeted: “RIP Chris Cornell. Incredibly Talented. Incredibly Young. Incredibly Missed.”

Cornell had an intense relationship with Australia, even early on. As a teenager growing up in Seattle, the music he listened to included The Angels, Rose Tattoo and AC/DC. 

Through Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog, his impact on Australian music was immediate and long lasting. Silverchair were one act who regarded them as musical heroes. 

Their long time manager John Watson, who regarded him as “one of the all-time great rock singers”, recalled to TMN: “He was very generous with his time to Silverchair back when they were teenage fans.

“Putting them side of stage at the Reading Festival was an experience they will never forget.’

Soundwave festival founder AJ Maddah, who booked Soundgarden in 2015, told TMN he was “devastated” at the news as he farewelled his “beautiful friend”.

“In the early 90s Australian bands such as Killing Time and Mantissa came close and today we see Atomic Riot and Dellacoma Rio waving the flag,” said James Young, creator of Melbourne’s CherryRock festival and owner of the hard rock venue Cherry Bar on AC/DC Lane. “But truth is no-one can come close because there can only ever be one Chris Cornell.

“What set him apart from the other so-called grunge heroes was that he didn’t perform in a flannel shirt facing away from the audience screaming inaudibly. He faced the crowd shirtless, like sex on a stick, and sang like a bird!” 

Gang Of Youths frontman Dave Le’aupepe, who was the opener for Cornell’s solo shows here last year, spoke eloquently in an Instagram post about how supportive the singer was.

“seeing him sitting and watching me play from side of stage, applauding after every song was one of the strangest and most surreal things i’ve ever experienced. 
thanks chris. thank you for your work, your spirit and for giving a scared, povo kid from the inner west a chance.”

After reuniting in 2010 after a 13-year break, Soundgarden were writing their next album and planning a return to Australia as part of a world tour.

Cornell toured here three times with them on Big Day Out and his solo acoustic shows were instant sell-outs. Playing the Sydney Opera House in 2011, he said, was one of his great experiences.

Cornell got into drugs at 13, had enough bad experiences to quit a year later, got kicked out of school at 15, and had no friends until 16.

He told Rolling Stone in 1994: “There was about two years where I was more or less agoraphobic and didn’t deal with anybody, didn’t talk to anybody, didn’t have any friends at all.

“All the friends that I had were still fucked up with drugs and were people that I didn’t really have anything in common with.”

By 16, he caught the music bug, and learned to play drums while financially surviving at the same time as a busboy and dishwasher.

This mix of despair, alienation and hope – and the way he approached his long time depression with humour, as on Outshine – struck a chord worldwide. 

He and his wife Vicky set up a foundation to support children facing challenges, including homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect.

Cornell found critical and commercial success with every one of his projects. He sold almost 15 million albums and 8.8 million digital songs in the U.S. alone. 

Five million were from Soundgarden’s 1994 breakthrough Superunknown which yielded five singles, won two Grammys and made them one of the world’s biggest bands.


For anyone who may be impacted by this story, we encourage you to seek support. Details for 24/7 crisis support services are outlined below:

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

Lifeline – 13 11 14

MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78

A telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way.

Headspace – 1800 650 890

Free online and telephone service that supports young people aged between 12 and 25 and their families going through a tough time. 

Further resources:

Support Act – 1300 731 303

An Australian registered charity focusing on supporting the mental health of Australian musicians and music industry professionals.

Black Dog Institute

Information on symptoms, treatment and prevention of depression and bipolar disorder.

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