Music fans across the world awoke to unexpectedly tragic news, as reports of the death of Chris Cornell poured in this morning. The alt-rock musician from Seattle was best known as the frontman for Soundgarden and Audioslave. The cause of death remains unknown and is under investigation, according to a statement issued by his publicist. [Edit: the cause has been found to be suicide by hanging. It’s possibly the worst follow up to this news there can be]

Recognized as the chief architect of the 90s grunge movement, Cornell is remembered for his versatility: not just as a showman, but also as a singer with a near four-octave vocal range and as a prolific songwriter.  He began his career with Soundgarden, which he co-founded in 1984 with bassist Hiro Yamamoto and guitarist Kim Thayil.

First signed to the soon-to-be-famous label Sub Pop, Soundgarden later went on to famously become the first grunge band to be signed by a major record label (A&M Records, 1988), though it took a while for them to achieve commercial success as they popularized the genre with contemporaries like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Alice in Chains.

Powerfully original,  their work continued to evolve over the course of seven groundbreaking albums. Soundgarden made a historic return to the live stage in 2010 and have since toured the world, releasing the all-new studio album, King Animal, to widespread acclaim.

Cornell also famously collaborated with future members of Pearl Jam in 1990 on the side project Temple of the Dog, featuring a more soulfoul approach. After Soundgarden broke up initially in 1997, he continued to redefine his creative vision, like on his critically acclaimed solo album Euphoria Morning, an introspective psychedelic folk-rock pastiche of the 60s, which features Wave Goodbye, a song he later described as a tribute to his friend Jeff Buckley. At the turn of millenium, he teamed up with members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. Together, the multi-platinum band released three albums. Chris also collaborated with various artists and composers and successfully dabbled in soundtrack score, both for big budget and independent cinema, most notably You Know My Name for Casino Royale (2006). 

He recently released Higher Truth, his fifth and final solo album: an intimate record that celebrated his mellower side.

Chris Cornell was voted  “Rock’s Greatest Singer” by readers of Guitar World, ranked 4th in the list of “Heavy Metal’s All-Time Top 100 Vocalists” by Hit Parader, 9th in the list of “Best Lead Singers of All Time” by Rolling Stone,  and 12th in MTV’s “22 Greatest Voices in Music” [via Wiki]

Listen to his stunning vocals in this isolated vocal track of Black Hole Sun:

 

~

And if you don’t believe the sun will rise,

Stand alone and greet the coming night,

in the last remaining light.