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Chris Cornell
Cornell at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival
Christopher John Boyle

(1964-07-20)July 20, 1964
Died May 17, 2017(2017-05-17) (aged 52)
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California, United States
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
Years active 1984–2017
Susan Silver
(m. 1990; div. 2004)

Vicky Karayiannis
(m. 2004; his death 2017)
Children 3
Parent(s) Ed Boyle
Karen Cornell
Relatives Peter Boyle, Patrick Boyle, Katy Boyle, Suzy Boyle
Musical career
  • Vocals
Associated acts

Chris Cornell (Christopher John Boyle; July 20, 1964 – May 17, 2017) was an American singer. He is best known as the singer in the grunge band Soundgarden. Cornell is regarded as one of the greatest vocalists in rock history.

Early life

Cornell was born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964, in Seattle, Washington, where he was raised. His parents are Edward F. Boyle, a pharmacist of Irish Catholic descent, and Karen Boyle (née Cornell), an accountant of Jewish background. Cornell was one of six children; he had two older brothers and three younger sisters. He and his siblings adopted his mother's maiden name, Cornell, following their parents' divorce when they were teenagers.

Cornell traced his musical influences back to Little Richard via The Beatles. He spent a two-year period between the ages of nine and eleven solidly listening to The Beatles after finding a large collection of Beatles records abandoned in the basement of a neighbor's house. Cornell described himself at this age as a loner; he was able to deal with his anxiety around other people through rock music. During his teenage years, he spiraled into severe depression, dropped out of school, and almost never left the house.

Cornell took piano and guitar lessons as a child. He credited his mother for saving his life when she bought him a snare drum, the instrument he first adopted on his path to becoming a rock musician. Before he was a successful musician, Cornell worked as a busboy, as a dishwasher, as a fish monger at a seafood wholesaler, and as a sous-chef at Ray's Boathouse in Seattle.


In the early 1980s, Cornell was a member of a Seattle-based cover band called The Shemps, which featured bassist Hiro Yamamoto. After Yamamoto left The Shemps, the band recruited guitarist Kim Thayil. Cornell and Yamamoto stayed in contact, and after The Shemps broke up, the pair started jamming together, eventually bringing Thayil in to join them.

Soundgarden was formed in 1984 by Cornell, Thayil, and Yamamoto, with Cornell originally on drums and vocals. In 1988 they released their debut album, Ultramega OK, for which they earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance in 1990.

In 1989, Soundgarden released their second effort and their first album for a major label, Louder Than Love. Following the album's release, Yamamoto left the band to finish his master's degree in physical chemistry at Western Washington University. He was replaced by former Nirvana guitarist Jason Everman. In 1990, they were joined by a new bassist, Ben Shepherd.

With Shepherd, the new line-up recorded Badmotorfinger in 1991. The album brought the band to a new level of commercial success and exposure amid the sudden popularity and attention given to the Seattle music scene. Badmotorfinger was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1992 and was later ranked number 45 in the October 2006 issue of Guitar World on the magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitar albums of all time.

Soundgarden's fourth studio album, 1994's Superunknown, proved to be the band's breakthrough album. Upon its release in March 1994, Superunknown debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The album launched several successful singles, including "Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun", and brought the band international recognition. Superunknown achieved quintuple platinum status in the United States, triple platinum status in Canada, and gold status in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Rolling Stone gave Superunknown four out of five stars.

The band's fifth album was 1996's self-produced Down on the Upside. The album spawned several singles, including "Burden in My Hand" and "Blow Up the Outside World". However, tensions within the group arose during the sessions, with Thayil and Cornell reportedly clashing over Cornell's desire to shift away from the heavy guitar riffing that had become the band's trademark. Despite favorable reviews, the album couldn't match the sales of Superunknown.

In 1997, Soundgarden received another Grammy award nomination for the lead single "Pretty Noose". As tensions grew within the band, reportedly due to internal strife over its creative direction, Soundgarden announced that it was disbanding on April 9, 1997. In a 1998 interview, Thayil said, "It was pretty obvious from everybody's general attitude over the course of the previous half-year that there was some dissatisfaction."

Cornell released his debut album in September 1999, Euphoria Morning. Euphoria Morning proved commercially unsuccessful, selling 393,000 copies in the U.S.; however, the album's single "Can't Change Me" was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 2000 Grammy Awards.

On June 5, 2007, Cornell released his second solo album, Carry On, produced by Steve Lillywhite. It debuted at number 17 on the American Billboard charts.

Later, in 2001, he began the supergroup Audioslave with the former members of Rage Against the Machine. Cornell recorded three albums as Audioslave's singer until the band's breakup in early 2007. His second solo album Carry On was released to mixed commercial success in June 2007.

Cornell's last studio album, Higher Truth, was released on September 18, 2015. The last solo release prior to his death was the charity single "The Promise", written for the movie of the same name about the Armenian genocide. Prior to his death, Cornell committed all proceeds from the song to support refugees and vulnerable children.

2001–2007: Audioslave

Audioslave was formed after Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine and the remaining members were searching for another vocalist. Cornell was in the writing process of a second solo album, but decided to shelve that and pursue the opportunity to work with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk when they approached him. Morello described Cornell: "He stepped to the microphone and sang the song and I couldn't believe it. It didn't just sound good. It didn't sound great. It sounded transcendent. And ... when there is an irreplaceable chemistry from the first moment, you can't deny it." The quartet wrote 21 songs during 19 days of rehearsal and began working in the studio in late May 2001.

Their debut album, Audioslave, released in November 2002, spawned hits such as "Cochise", "Like a Stone" and "Show Me How to Live", and has reached triple platinum status in the United States. The band toured through 2003, before resting in 2004 to record their second album.

Chris Cornell (212441909)
Cornell performing with Audioslave in 2003

Audioslave's second album, Out of Exile, was released in May 2005 and debuted at number one on the U.S. charts. The album has since gone on to achieve platinum status. The album features the singles "Out of Exile", "Be Yourself", "Your Time Has Come" and "Doesn't Remind Me". Cornell admitted to writing his most personal songs ever on this album, influenced by the positive changes in his life since 2002. He also described the album as more varied than the debut and relying less on heavy guitar riffs.

In early 2006 the band returned, recording their third album as they had written most of the material during the tour. The band released the album, titled Revelations, in September 2006. Revelations was influenced by 1960s and 1970s funk and R&B music.

All of Audioslave's lyrics were written by Cornell, whilst all four members were credited with writing the music.

On February 15, 2007, Cornell officially announced his departure from Audioslave, stating that "Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band Audioslave. I wish the other three members nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors." As the other three members were busy with the Rage Against the Machine reunion with de la Rocha coming back, and Morello and Cornell had each released solo albums in 2007, Audioslave officially disbanded.


Cornell died at his Detroit, Michigan hotel room shortly after performing at a concert on May 17, 2017 at the age of 52.

Personal life

Cornell was first married to Susan Silver, the manager of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. They had a daughter, Lillian Jean, in June 2000. He and Silver divorced in 2004. In December 2008, Cornell said that he had finally won back his collection of 15 guitars after a four-year court battle with Silver.

He then married Vicky Karayiannis. She is an American publicist of Greek heritage. She gave birth to his second daughter, Toni, in September 2004, and his third child, Christopher Nicholas, in December 2005. Cornell converted to the Greek Orthodox Church because of her faith in the church.


After hearing about his death, Alice Cooper stated:

Chris Cornell, in our circle, was known as 'The Voice' because he had the best voice in rock and roll. I was lucky enough to write and record two songs with him. His death comes as a total shock to all of us. 'Black Hole Sun' will live on as a classic, and his is a true legacy of rock and roll.

Following his death, the sales and streams of Cornell's discography grew by more than 550% from the week prior to his death. On platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora, his songs were streamed 32.5 million times during the week in which he died. The charting week prior to that, his tracks were played 5 million times. That same week, 38,000 copies of Cornell albums were sold, which represented a 1,700% gain in purchases; the week before his death, only 2,000 units were sold.

On August 10, 2020, Nile Rodgers and Merck Mercuriadis's company Hipgnosis Songs Fund acquired 100% of Cornell's catalog of song rights (241 songs), including the Soundgarden catalog.


Studio albums

  • Euphoria Morning (1999)
  • Carry On (2007)
  • Scream (2009)
  • Higher Truth (2015)
  • No One Sings Like You Anymore, Vol. 1 (2020)

with Soundgarden

  • Ultramega OK (1988)
  • Louder Than Love (1989)
  • Badmotorfinger (1991)
  • Superunknown (1994)
  • Down on the Upside (1996)
  • King Animal (2012)

with Temple of the Dog

  • Temple of the Dog (1991)

with Audioslave

  • Audioslave (2002)
  • Out of Exile (2005)
  • Revelations (2006)

Awards and nominations

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Chris Cornell para niños

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