Friday Nite Retro - Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell is another one of those guys who's played in several bands, but is more commonly known for just one; in his case, Soundgarden. Cornell was born in Seattle, Washington on July 20, 1964 - a mere 28 days after my entry into the world in Hemet, California. 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 house. He then suffered from a severe case of clinical depression during his teenage years, rarely leaving the house. At one point, he spent a whole year of his life without leaving his house, during which time he would spend his time drinking and playing drums and guitar.
Along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden became one of the most successful bands from Seattle's emerging grunge scene in the early 1990s. The band was formed in 1984 by Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto, with Cornell originally on drums and vocals. They hired drummer Scott Sundquist, so that Cornell could concentrate on singing. After a year-and-a-half Sundquist was replaced by Matt Cameron, former drummer of Skin Yard, and current drummer of Pearl Jam. But in the days before Soundgarden hit it big, Cornell was involved with another project with future members of Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog - a band formed in tribute to Cornell's former roommate, Andrew Wood. Wood, the former lead singer of Mother Love Bone, died of a heroin overdose the year before. Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard of Mother Love Bone would team up with Mike McCready and Dave Krusen and find a new vocalist Eddie Vedder in 1991, forming Pearl Jam. Temple of the Dog has gone on to sell more than a million copies, thanks in large part to the singles "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Hunger Strike," which features the duet of Cornell and Vedder. This was the first time Vedder was recorded professionally.
Superunknown was the Soundgarden's breakout album. Upon its release in March 1994, Superunknown debuted at number one on Billboard's Top 200 album chart. The album granted Soundgarden international recognition, 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. Reviewer J.D. Considine said Superunknown "demonstrates far greater range than many bands manage in an entire career." He also stated, "At its best, Superunknown offers a more harrowing depiction of alienation and despair than anything on In Utero." Jon Pareles of The New York Times said that "Superunknown actually tries to broaden its audience by breaking heavy-metal genre barriers that Soundgarden used to accept." He added that "Soundgarden...wants something different from standard heavy metal." David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A. He said, "Soundgarden is pumped and primed on Superunknown, and they deliver the goods." He praised it as a "hard-rock milestone-a boiling vat of volcanic power, record-making smarts, and '90s anomie and anxiety that sets a new standard for anything called metal."
Soundgarden's final album was 1996's self-produced Down on the Upside. The album spawned several singles, including "Pretty Noose", "Blow Up the Outside World", and "Burden in My Hand" . The album was notably less heavy than the group's preceding albums, and marked a further departure from the band's grunge roots. Soundgarden explained at the time that it wanted to experiment with other sounds. 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 did not match the sales of Superunknown, and tensions within the band caused it to announce that it was disbanding on April 9, 1997.
In 1998 Cornell began writing work for a solo album, entitled Euphoria Morning, released on September 21, 1999, on which he collaborated with Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider of the band Eleven. The album proved commercially unsuccessful although the album's single "Can't Change Me" was nominated for "Best Male Rock Vocal Performance" at the 2000 Grammy Awards.
Audioslave was formed after Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine and the remaining members were searching for another vocalist. Producer and friend Rick Rubin suggested that they contact Cornell. Rubin played the remaining Rage band members the Soundgarden song "Slaves & Bulldozers" to showcase his ability. Cornell was in the writing process of a second solo CD, but decided to shelve that and pursue the opportunity to work with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk when they approached him. Critics initially described Audioslave as an amalgamation of Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden, but by the band's second album, Out of Exile, noted that they had established a separate identity. Morello described Cornell as: "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.
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, and Morello and Cornell had each released solo albums in 2007, Audioslave was officially disbanded. Cornell continues with his solo career today. Check out his website here.