In a statement to the Associated Press, his representative, Brian Bumbery, said Cornell died on Wednesday night in Detroit.
Bumbery called the death “sudden and unexpected” and said his wife and family were shocked. The statement said the family would be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause, and asked for privacy.
Cornell had been touring with Soundgarden, and was tweeting upbeat messages about a sold-out concert the band played in Detroit just hours before his death.
His rock peers paid tribute, such as Mark Lanegan, Billy Idol and Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro.
Soundgarden were part of the Pacific Northwestern grunge scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s, coming up alongside bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam – Cornell recorded a 1991 album with the latter under the name Temple of the Dog. Like Nirvana, Soundgarden were first signed to indie label Sub Pop before making the jump to a major, taking their heavy, angsty sound into the mainstream with singles like Black Hole Sun.
The band sold more than 10m albums in the US alone, and were nominated for nine Grammy awards, winning two. They broke up in 1997, but reformed in 2010; their most recent album was King Animal in 2012, and had been working on new songs over the past year.
Following the breakup of Soundgarden, Cornell recorded a solo record, before being recruited as the singer for Rick Rubin-produced rock supergroup Audioslave, which also featured former members of Rage Against the Machine. Featuring a glossy yet robust update of the bands’ 1990s sound, their 2002 debut album was a big success, eventually going triple platinum in the US.
Cornell also recorded You Know My Name with composer David Arnold, which was used as the theme for the 2006 James Bond movie Casino Royale, which introduced Daniel Craig as 007.
He had struggles with addiction to drugs and alcohol, checking into rehab in 2003 and going sober ever since. “I actually like rehab a lot. It’s like school; it’s interesting. I’m learning that I can be teachable at age 38,” he told Spin magazine that year. “I would sometimes drink before we played. It wasn’t a big deal. It became a bigger deal when I stopped doing the other things I liked to do. I used to ride mountain bikes around with my friends, and we’d keep 40-ouncers where the water bottle was supposed to be. But once I removed the mountain and the bike, there was just the drinking.”
He later told Details magazine: “When I transitioned into adulthood – high-stakes emotional responsibilities – I did everything I could get my hands on. It happened without me really noticing it. The thing is, when you pick up the pipe for the first time, you don’t know that that’s your fate. The moment isn’t that dramatic. And then that was it – I didn’t want to care anymore.”
In 2012, he and his wife Vicky created a foundation that works with vulnerable children facing poverty and homelessness. The couple had two children, Toni and Christopher Nicholas; Cornell also had a daughter with first wife and former manager Susan Silver. (Courtesy The Guardian)