An integral part of the Seattle scene of the late 1980s and 1990s, Chris Cornell was the founding member of Soundgarden, alongside guitarist Kim Thayil and original bassist Hiro Yamamoto. He was the frontman as well as the band’s chief songwriter. They became the first grunge band to sign to a major label. Following his success with Soundgarden, who split in 1997, he pursued a solo career among other projects and formed Audioslave. Soundgarden re-formed in 2010.
With news of Chris Cornell’s untimely death, FANDOM looks back on the musician’s best moments in his career.
Black Hole Sun
Although “Black Hole Sun” wasn’t the only great song on the Soundgarden album Superunknown, it has become one of the most enduring and successful, not least because of that incredible video. Superunknown was Soundgarden’s breakthrough album. It propelled the band to new levels of success and “Black Hole Sun” was the song in the driving seat. The tune marked a change in sound for the band as they moved away from their noisy, metal roots to a more melodic, alt-rock sound.
A re-worked version of “Black Hole Sun” recently featured in TV’s Westworld. It also appeared on the soundtrack of 2014’s A Walk Among the Tombstones.
This album was Soundgarden’s third, and best. Recorded in 1991, there isn’t a weak track on it. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1992 and is notable for singles “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Outshined” and “Rusty Cage”. MTV struck the video for “Jesus Christ Pose” off its playlist because of controversy surrounding it.
Johnny Cash, meanwhile, famously covered “Rusty Cage” for his 1996 album Unchained. Chris Cornell credited Cash with changing perceptions of his band. In a 2016 interview with The Independent, he said, “‘When Johnny Cash did his version of Rusty Cage, people were leaving messages on my answering machine telling me how great the lyrics were and they didn’t say that about the lyrics when it was the Soundgarden version.”
Temple of the Dog
Originally released in 1991, Temple of the Dog was a collaborative project made as a tribute to Cornell’s friend, Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose. The record was reissued last year for its 25th anniversary. The supergroup, which included members of fellow Seattle band Pearl Jam, including Eddie Vedder, Mike McReady, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, as well as Soundgarden’s own Matt Cameron and Cornell himself, also reunited for an anniversary tour in 2016.
Featuring songs like “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Hunger Strike”, the album was actually full of brilliant songs and was a genuine one-off.
Recording a Bond theme
Chris Cornell’s Bond theme was written with David Arnold for 2006’s Casino Royale, the first of Daniel Craig’s outings as 007. The song achieved a number of firsts. Called “You Know My Name”, it was the first theme song since 1983’s Octopussy with a title that wasn’t the name of the film, for starters. It was also the first sung by an American male and the first not to appear on the film’s soundtrack album. Instead, it appeared on Cornell’s album, 2007’s Carry On – his first release since leaving Audioslave.
At the height of grunge’s prominence, Cameron Crowe made a film about the scene. Well, strictly speaking, Singles was a film about romance, aka a romantic comedy, but it capitalised on the popularity of Seattle and the music coming out of it, stuffing the movie with cameos from some of the scene’s foremost musicians. Including Chris Cornell. It also had an of-the-moment soundtrack and grunge fans flocked to see it.
In his memorable role, he appears from a doorway and stands next to Matt Dillon’s plaid-wearing Cliff Poncier and his love interest, Bridget Fonda’s Janet, as music plays on the stereo from the car Cliff has fixed up. He totally digs the sounds. But it’s too loud and the windows break.
Next, Cornell is shirtless on stage with the rest of Soundgarden singing “Birth Ritual”, which also features on the stonking soundtrack. A solo effort from Cornell, “Seasons”, made it to the soundtrack too.
Another supergroup project of Cornell’s this one consisted of himself and three Rage Against the Machine members, including Tom Morello. They made three albums and were nominated for three Grammys. They combined alt-rock with 1970s-style hard-rock twiddly guitars but it was Cornell’s voice that always stamped everything he did with his own unique sound, and Audioslave was no different.
His cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Made famous by Sinead O’Connor, it’s hard to think of anyone topping her haunting version. Or even Prince’s own performances of the song. But following Prince’s death in April 2016, Cornell covered “Nothing Compares 2 U” and made it his own with an impassioned acoustic take.