Chris Cornell, widely known as one of the founding members of the grunge movement of the 1980s and 1990s, died Wednesday night of what has now been suspected as suicide. He was 52.
Cornell was the frontman for bands like Soundgarden and Audioslave, and had just finished playing a show with the latter only hours before his death was reported.
The singer's representative, Brian Bumbery, reported the death as "sudden and unexpected," with his wife and family stunned at the loss. On Thursday, May 18, it was reported that the initial finding by the medical examiner was that Cornell had in fact died as a result of suicide.
Cornell had reportedly also struggled with addictions to drugs and alcohol, going through a stint in rehab in 2003. Surprisingly, Cornell said at the time that he actually liked rehab and compared the experience with going to school.
"I'm learning that I can be teachable at age 38," he said at the time, noting that the drinking would also invade any involvement he had in recreational sports. "I used to ride mountain bikes around with my friends, and we’d keep 40-ouncers where the water bottle was supposed to be. But once I removed the mountain and the bike, there was just the drinking.”
Soundgarden came to prominence in the late 1990s alongside bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and Cornell had actually recorded some music with Nirvana under the name Temple Of The Dog. While the band dissolved in 1997, Soundgarden reassembled in 2010 and performed regularly since then, with their last performance occurring just hours before Cornell passed.
Years of being apart did nothing to dampen Soundgarden's enthusiasm for what they did, either; a review of their 2012 album, "King Animal," was warmly received by critics as sounding "like four musicians live in a room, making music that clenches and unclenches like a fist.”
Cornell's family has released a statement regarding his suicide, and it's clear that the family does not believe that Cornell may have been fully responsible in his decision to suicide.
“Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris—or if any substances contributed to his demise,” the Cornell family said.
The family said that the rocker had a prescription for Ativan and suggested that perhaps he had taken a higher dosage than prescribed which would have had an impact on his judgment overall. Ativan is used for anti-anxiety and can be used as a sleep aid because it has a tranquilizing effect. It can be safely assumed that there will be toxicology tests undertaken to determine exactly what, if anything, must have fed into Cornell's apparent suicide.
His wife Vicky said that when she'd spoken with Cornell just after the Soundgarden show, he'd admitted that perhaps he'd taken more Ativan than was advisable. She'd heard him slurring his words and at that point had contacted security to ensure that her husband was indeed safe.
"What happened is inexplicable and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details," his wife Vicky said. "I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life. The outpouring of love and support from his fans, friends and family means so much more to us than anyone can know. Thank you for that, and for understanding how difficult this is for us.”
"Chris’s death is a loss that escapes words and has created an emptiness in my heart that will never be filled," she continued. "As everyone who knew him commented, Chris was a devoted father and husband.”
Further details about services for Cornell or toxicological results are pending.