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Music

Lauded rocker Chris Cornell killed himself by hanging

Chris Cornell, then of Audioslave, performs in the Netherlands in 2003. Cornell was found dead Thursday in Detroit. (Sunshine/Zuma Press/TNS)
Chris Cornell, then of Audioslave, performs in the Netherlands in 2003. Cornell was found dead Thursday in Detroit. (Sunshine/Zuma Press/TNS)

DETROIT (AP) – Chris Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, killed himself Wednesday by hanging in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city’s medical examiner. He was 52.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said Thursday it completed the preliminary autopsy on Cornell, but that “a full autopsy report has not yet been completed.” A police spokesman told two Detroit newspapers that the singer was found with a band around his neck.

“There is no additional information at this time,” the Wayne County office added.

Cornell’s death stunned his family and his die-hard fans, who Cornell just performed for hours earlier at a show in Detroit. Soundgarden’s current tour kicked off in late April and was planned to run through May 27.

Cornell was a leader of the grunge movement with Seattle-based 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. He 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.

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, who had released hit songs and found success, marked a mainstream breakthrough with “Superunknown,” its 1994 album that won them two Grammys, sold more than five million units in the U.S., and launched five hits, including “Black Hole Sun,” one of the most popular alternative rock songs from the 1990s.

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 6 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.

Cornell referenced death — and suicide — in 2007 interview with the AP when discussing his single, “No Such Thing.” It appeared on his second solo album, “Carry On.”

“The ‘no such thing as nothing’ line comes from the concepts that humans don’t really have a flat line until we’re dead. If we are not leading a happy productive life, we are leading probably an unhappy non-productive life. If a person doesn’t have enough food, they actually are hungry. If they don’t have enough money it’s not that they have no money, they actually have something and it’s called poverty. There’s no just kind of flat lining coasting. You’re either going in one direction or in another direction. All that came out of me trying to imagine why somebody would be, for example, a suicide bomber.”

The music industry mourned his sudden death online. Elton John tweeted, “Shocked and saddened by the sudden death of @chriscornell. A great singer, songwriter and the loveliest man.”

KEXP, Seattle’s popular independent radio station, paid tribute to Cornell throughout Thursday morning. The station played non-stop songs from Soundgarden and Cornell’s other bands and solo work, as well as artists who covered Cornell’s material and those who were influenced by him.

“Seattle’s son, Chris Cornell, has passed away,” DJ John Richards told listeners.

___

AP Entertainment Writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody and Associated Press writers Dennis Waszak in New York and David Runk in Detroit contributed to this report.

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