Rock Star Chris Cornell Dead at 52, Greek Wife in Shock

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2013 file photo, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden performs during the band's concert at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

DETROIT — Rocker Chris Cornell, the lead singer of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, has died at age 52, and police said on Thursday, May 18 that his death is being investigated as a possible suicide. Cornell’s Greek wife Vicky (née Karayiannis) is reportedly in shock according to the Associated Press.

Cornell, who had been on tour, died Wednesday night in Detroit, Cornell’s representative Brian Bumbery said in a statement to The Associated Press. Cornell had performed a concert with Soundgarden in Detroit that night.

Bumbery called the death “sudden and unexpected” and said his wife and family are in shock. The statement said the family would be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause and have asked for privacy.

Through his wife’s influence, Cornell converted to the Greek Orthodox Church. The couple had two children, a daughter Toni in 2004 and son Christopher Nicholas in 2005. Only a month ago, Cornell, a dedicated philanthropist, had visited Greece and met with mostly Afghan refugees in the Elaionas refugee camp in Athens, according to pagesix.com. The trip followed a London screening of The Promise, the film about the Armenian Genocide. Cornell, a good friend of producer Eric Esrailian, had written the film’s music.

Detroit police spokesman Michael Woody told The Associated Press on Thursday morning that he couldn’t release details about why police are investigating the death as a possible suicide, but noted that there were “basic things observed at the scene.”

The Detroit Free Press reported that Detroit police social media manager Dontae Freeman said Cornell was found dead in a hotel room at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel with “a band around his neck.” The Detroit News cited Freeman in a similar report.

But Woody told AP that he could not confirm that Cornell died with a band around his neck and that the investigation into his death continues.

Woody said Cornell’s wife had called a family friend and asked him to check on Cornell; the friend forced open a hotel room door and found Cornell on the bathroom floor.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s office will make an official determination about the cause of death. An autopsy is being conducted Thursday and some information from it is expected to be released later in the day, Wayne County spokeswoman Lisa Croff said.

News of Cornell’s death prompted scores of tweets expressing sadness. Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry tweeted: “Very sad news about Chris Cornell today. A sad loss of a great talent to the world, his friends and family. Rest In Peace.”

With his powerful, nearly four-octave vocal range, Cornell was one of the leading voices of the 1990s grunge movement with Soundgarden, which emerged as one of the biggest bands out of Seattle’s emerging music scene, joining the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.

Formed in 1984 by Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto, Soundgarden’s third studio album, Badmotorfinger, in 1991 spawned popular singles Jesus Christ Pose, Rusty Cage, and Outshined that received regular play on alternative rock radio stations.

FILE – In this July 29, 2015 file photo, Chris Cornell plays guitar during a portrait session at The Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, Calif. (Photo by Casey Curry/Invision/AP, File)

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.

Three years later, Soundgarden broke through on mainstream radio with the album Superunknown, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Record in 1995. It included hit singles Spoonman, Fell on Black Days, Black Hole Sun, My Wave, and The Day I Tried to Live.

Soundgarden disbanded in 1997 due to tensions in the band, and Cornell pursued a solo career. In 2001, he 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 six years and also performed at a concert billed as Cuba’s first outdoor rock concert by an American band, though some Cuban artists have disputed that claim.

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 released four solo studio albums and a solo live album. He released the single The Promise in March on iTunes, with all proceeds going to the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian aid, relief, and development non-governmental organization.

In addition to his music, Cornell also became involved in philanthropy and started the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation to support children facing challenges, including homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect.

Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Entertainment Writer

Associated Press writers Dennis Waszak in New York; and Corey Williams and David Runk in Detroit contributed to this report.

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