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 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.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Cornell died by suicide. He was one of my favorite singers, and he had everything to live for so why suicide? It may be due to something not many people realize so I want to share my personal story. It is a little difficult to share this, but I do it in the hope of preventing tragic deaths in other families.

    I am 100% certain there are thousands of people who commit suicide every year because (AND ONLY BECAUSE) they are taking a prescription medication that literally caused them to do it. I believe wholeheartedly that is what happened to Chris Cornell. I say that because I believe I survived what he experienced in his final moments.

    My tragedy began in 2013 when I was having a lot of uncomfortable symptoms due to aging and a few different doctors prescribed Xanax. The Xanax alleviated my uncomfortable physical symptoms, but it also gave me a much worse problem–it made me completely suicidal. I was not depressed or suicidal before taking Xanax. I was 48 years old, happily married, in a career I love, and happy with my life. It was the prescription that made me sick and turned me into a completely different and suicidal person.

    Xanax literally “high jacked” my brain. That’s the most accurate way I can describe it. It made me wake up every day thinking of ways to end my life — completely against my will and normal personality. I was like a suicidal “robot” while on Xanax. I tried to kill myself four times. We couldn’t figure out why I was doing that, and the doctors kept insisting I needed more benzodiazepine drugs or different ones. They prescribed Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan at different times. They insisted the drugs weren’t the problem even though they went to medical school for 8 years where they learned those meds can cause suicidal thoughts and actions. SMH. Doctors don’t always know what’s right.

    Six months into this nightmare we finally found a doctor who decided to take me off the benzodiazepines. After I got off the meds ALL my suicidal thoughts and actions went away completely. I went back to my normal self. It was the meds that messed me up. I have had no problems with suicidal thoughts or actions since stopping the medications.

    I’ll also tell you those meds made me 100% agoraphobic and anxious. Before the meds I used to love to go shopping, attend craft shows, see movies, and walk our dogs. While on the meds I was too terrified to do any of those things. The meds completely changed who I was. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever been through in my life.

    So now every time I hear of a person who died from suicide, my first thoughts are always “I wonder if that person was on meds. Meds probably did this to them. I bet they would never do this in their non-medicated mind.” I read all the news articles to see if that person was on Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan, etc. Sure enough many, many suicide victims are. I call them “victims” because they are truly victims of those meds in my humble opinion.

    I post these messages to warn people. Please warn people. Tell them my story if you need to. Better yet, tell their family members the meds could be their ENTIRE problem. The person on the meds will not be well enough to understand this issue or the seriousness of it. That’s why you need to tell their family members. Please share this post if you care to because this issue needs to be talked about openly and often in order to save lives.

    I realize meds help some people so I can’t say that nobody should ever take them, but please know they can also do much more harm than good. In my humble opinion it’s a “crap shoot”. You don’t know if meds are going to help you or cause you to kill yourself. That’s very scary and not worth the risk in my opinion. Even being supervised did not stop my attempts to commit suicide. My husband asked his mom to stay with me while he went to work because he couldn’t trust me alone, and I went upstairs onto our roof and contemplated jumping off while she was downstairs. I thank God I survived this 7-month nightmare and lived to tell this story in an attempt to help others. I am heartbroken that Chris Cornell’s suicide attempt took his life.

    I wish everyone knew how dangerous prescription drugs can be. I hope these words save some lives someday. I believe Chris Cornell’s death was in no way his fault. It is the fault of a horrible prescription drug that drug companies sell for major profits. Some doctors push these meds because they receive incentives from the drug company representatives for prescribing them. They are given luxurious vacations, gifts, and constant free food for their entire staff on a daily basis. I saw the food incentives being given firsthand while I was in the waiting room of my doctor’s office. It’s unethical and sickening! To me they have blood on their hands for doing this because of the many innocent people who are dying due to the negative effects of prescription drugs.

    Please also know that while I was taking the meds I was completely powerless over them. Before I started taking the Xanax I was afraid to even take it because of the possible side effects. I kept a log of how often I was taking it and I took the lowest dose possible because I didn’t want to become addicted to it. I knew the bottle said it could cause suicidal thoughts, but I always thought that meant if I get those thoughts I’ll just stop taking the med and that would fix the problem. That’s not how it worked at all.

    While on Xanax I could not even tell my husband I was having suicidal thoughts. I was literally sneaking out of the house at 2 a.m. to try and kill myself. I could not “reason” my way through this nightmare because that drug literally “high jacked” my brain. I woke up every day on automatic pilot thinking of ways to end my life and then acting on those thoughts. I find it extremely unexplainable how a drug can do that to a person, but it did. I know because I experienced it.

    I wish the drug companies would develop a test to determine who will be affected negatively by prescription medications so those people can avoid taking them. Much research needs to be done in that area. I don’t know if a test like that is even possible, but it’s worth a try since they will probably never stop selling those medications.

    Let me also tell you that 25 years before my nightmare on Xanax my mom tried to commit suicide out of nowhere. Like me she showed no prior signs of being depressed or suicidal. She was taking Ativan for anxiety, and out of the blue we got a call one day from our dad saying she was found unresponsive in the basement. She woke up from her coma in the hospital with no idea why she did that. She came so close to death that her doctor told us God saved her. At the time none of us could figure out why that happened. It was only a year after my experience that I realized why she did it. It was because of the Ativan she was taking for anxiety. I have no doubt about that. Chris Cornell was on Ativan too. From my experience and my mom’s experience, I have no doubt it was Ativan that caused his suicide. He had everything to live for. He loved his wife, kids, and career. He started a foundation to help kids. He was planning a vacation with is family. He had no signs of being suicidal. Ativan did this to him. I have no doubt about that. Prescription drugs kill many people.

    I have been trying to get this information out to the public since 2013 when it happened to me. I post my story on my Facebook page and in some of the comments sections about suicide victims I see in the news. I do this in an effort to save lives.

    I pray that the legacy of Chris Cornell’s death will be that his wife and other family members of famous suicide victims will start a worldwide campaign to educate the public about the dangers of these medications. And I pray that campaign will save many, many lives.

    RIP, Mr. Cornell. The music in Heaven is even more spectacular now that you are there.


    Carolyn Hayward Williams ❤️❤️❤️

    P.S. To everyone reading this message, please share it. Only the light we shed on this issue will dispel the darkness. As Chris Cornell so eloquently sang in Set It Off:

    Jesus at the back door
    Everything is all right
    All we need is some direction
    Every time the wind blows
    Everything you don’t know
    Turns in a revelation
    And it all adds up inside your head
    Time is wasting

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