Rock Legend Chris Cornell Dead At 52

By Keri Blakinger 05/19/17

The iconic Soundgarden frontman battled depression and addiction throughout his life. 

Chris Cornell

After years of battling dual demons of addiction and depression, Soundgarden rocker Chris Cornell took his own life on Wednesday night in a Detroit hotel room. He was 52. 

The “Black Hole Sun” singer’s body was found in the MGM Grand Detroit in the early hours of Thursday morning, after his concerned wife called and asked a family friend to check on him.

Afterward, his wife said the musician did not seem depressed or suicidal in the days leading up to his death.

Cornell rose to fame in the 1990s, with a grungey Seattle sound that rivaled the popularity of iconic bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. 

Although he first hit it big with Soundgarden’s brooding vocals, the band broke up in 1997. Afterward, Cornell joined grunge super-group Audioslave, best known for hits “Like a Stone” and “Show Me How to Live.” 

Throughout his life, Cornell struggled off and on with substance use. While growing up in Seattle, he kicked off a daily drug habit and sobered up again—all before he was old enough to drive. “I went from being a daily drug user at 13 to having bad drug experiences and quitting drugs by the time I was 14,” he told Rolling Stone in 1994.  

Although he got kicked out of school, Cornell learned to play the drums and, at 16, got serious about music.

Soundgarden, born in the '80s and partly inspired by straight-edge punkers, stayed drug-free. But around the time of the band’s 1997 break-up, Cornell returned to his drinking and drugging ways when he picked up Oxycontin. “I was a pioneer,” he sardonically told The Guardian in 2009. For years, he continued a “long slow slide” into addiction, he told The Mirror.

Then in the early 2000s, he parted ways with his wife, joined Audioslave and went to rehab. “It was the most difficult period of my life,” he said. “I’m lucky I got through it.” In his newly rediscovered sobriety, Cornell’s music took a lighter turn and he stopped singing about the “sudden fear that life was fucked.”

Even in sobriety, though, he was still surrounded by the specter of addiction, a topic he tackled last year in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times when he spoke about the hubbub surrounding celebrity overdose deaths like fellow rocker Scott Weiland’s.

"What ends up happening with musicians and actors is, they're famous, so when somebody has an issue, it's something that gets talked about," he said. "People die of drug overdoses every day that nobody talks about. It's a shame that famous people get all the focus, because it then gets glorified a little bit, like, 'This person was too sensitive for the world,' and, 'A light twice as bright lives half as long,' and all that. Which is all bullshit. It's not true."

Despite his dour take on fame and tragedy, when Soundgarden finally got together again in 2010, Cornell stuck with less brooding fare. The last solo song he released just two months before his death was titled “The Promise” and is about a vow to “persevere and thrive/and dare to rise once more.”

But over the years, that sort of promise wasn’t always a given for Cornell. “You’ll think somebody has run-of-the-mill depression, and then the next thing you know, they’re hanging from a rope. It’s hard to tell the difference,” he once told

“Sometimes it’s just chemical. It doesn’t seem to come from anywhere. And whenever I’ve been in any kind of depression, I’ve over the years tried to not only imagine what it feels like to not be there, but try to remind myself that I could just wake up the next day and it could be gone because that happens, and not to worry about it.”

Hours before his suicide, Cornell took to the stage one last time, playing for the crowd at Detroit’s Fox Theater. His final song was a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.”

If you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, immediately seek help. You are not alone.

Options include:

Calling the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
Calling 911
Calling a friend or family member to stay with you until emergency medical personnel arrive to help you.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.