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Chris Cornell
Biography                                                   by Greg Prato

Originally finding success as the singer/frontman of Seattle's Soundgarden, Chris Cornell also forged a successful solo career after the band's 1997 demise. Born in Seattle on July 20, 1964, Cornell's music career didn't take shape until he was a teenager, playing drums in bands that mixed punk/new wave (the Police) and metal (AC/DC) covers. Although he spent most of his teenage years withdrawn and as a loner, rock music helped Cornell overcome his uneasiness around others. After dropping out of high school and working as a cook, Cornell formed a band that, with a few lineup changes, would become the great and influential Soundgarden by the mid-'80s. Cornell switched to vocals around the time of the band's formation, with friend Hiro Yamamoto on bass, Kim Thayil on guitar, and eventually, Matt Cameron on drums.

Along with the Melvins, Soundgarden was one of the first rock bands to slow down punk's youthful energy to a Black Sabbath-like crawl. First issuing a few releases on independent labels (Sub Pop's Screaming Life and Fopp EPs, SST's Ultramega OK), Soundgarden was one of the first bands of the late-'80s Seattle underground to sign with a major label, A&M, which issued Louder Than Love in 1989. After the album's release, however, Yamamoto left and was first replaced by ex-Nirvana member Jason Everman, and eventually permanently by Ben Shepherd. With Soundgarden's quintessential lineup in place, the band rightfully became one of rock's most popular bands on the strength of such albums as 1991's Badmotorfinger, 1994's Superunknown, and 1996's Down on the Upside. With each album, Cornell's singing grew stronger and stronger and farther away from the heavy metal screaming of the band's early work and more toward a true singing style. Cornell also showed a great talent for lyric-writing; while his lyrics wouldn't make sense if read without the music, they evoked all kinds of images when he put the two together.

Besides Cornell's vast talents displayed with Soundgarden, he organized a tribute for late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood in the form of 1990's Temple of the Dog project, which was far more stripped-down. Cornell's first officially released solo composition, the acoustic "Seasons," was the highlight of the 1992 motion picture soundtrack Singles. His bluesy voice also worked amazingly well on a superb cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" on the 1993 Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix compilation (under the pseudonym MACC). He also found time to pen songs for other acts, such as Flotsam & Jetsam and Alice Cooper, as well as producing the Screaming Trees' 1991 release Uncle Anesthesia. After Soundgarden's demise in April of 1997, Cornell slowly but surely began to put a solo album together with his friends from the band Eleven.

Finally issued in 1999, Euphoria Morning was a departure from his former band's sound, as it was in a more singer/songwriter mold, which focused more on Cornell's vocals and lyrics than meaty guitar riffs. Shortly after its release, Cornell launched his first solo tour, mixing songs from all eras of his career. After wrapping up the aforementioned tour in early 2000, a tepid remix of the Euphoria Morning track "Mission" (retitled "Mission 2000") was included on the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack. It appeared as though Cornell would take a break from music for a while, as his wife gave birth to the couple's first child in June of the same year, but by late 2000, Cornell found himself involved in a project that promised to be a classic hard rock collaboration.

Rage Against the Machine decided not to break up after longtime vocalist Zack de la Rocha left the band that winter, but rather they would find another singer and carry on under a different name. Cornell accepted an invitation to jam and pen a few songs (which former Rage guitarist Tom Morello described as "really groundbreaking") and, shortly thereafter, officially joined forces with the former Rage members under the moniker Audioslave. Produced by Rick Rubin, the band's self-titled debut arrived in November 2002 and went multi-platinum. The follow-up, 2005's Out of Exile, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and was followed by the platinum-selling Revelations in 2006. Cornell left the band that same year, citing the usual "irreconcilable differences," and began work on his second solo record, 2007's Carry On, a topical, biographical, and musically confused whirlwind featuring a cover version of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" and "You Know My Name" from the Bond movie Casino Royale.

Content provided All Music Guide. Copyright 2008 All Media Guide, LLC.

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