Earlier this week, the Detroit Police Department released photos taken inside the hotel room of Chris Cornell May 18 when the singer was found unresponsive after hanging himself. While the images don’t show the body of the Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, a heartbreaking scene is painted nonetheless.
The series of photographs include such banal items as his boarding pass from New York City to Detroit, reassembled from being torn apart and tossed into a trashcan, to a haunting shot of his acoustic guitar resting across an ottoman and chair in the room.
Among the more graphic images are a series of ones focusing on the red exercise band Cornell used to take his life. Blood spatters can be seen both on the floor and on the wall of the bathroom where he was found. There’s also a deep indentation in the top of the bathroom door made in tandem by the carabiner clip used to loop the band and the weight of the singer’s body when he hung himself.
At the time of his death, Cornell had the sedative Butalbital, Ativan, a decongestant and barbiturates in his system. His passing was ruled a death by suicide by the local coroner’s office. Soundgarden had played just hours before at a concert where those in attendance thought his performance was off, with members of the road crew agreeing to as much.
After the show, Cornell spoke via phone to his wife Vicky, who said she was alarmed when he started slurring his words, remarking he may have taken “an extra Ativan or two.” She called his bodyguard, Martin Kirsten, and asked him to check on the frontman. When Cornell didn’t answer the hotel door, Kirsten asked hotel security to open it, but they refused. He kicked open the door and said inside he found the bathroom door partially opened and could see the musician’s feet.
Cornell was just 52. His suicide sent shockwaves through the music industry as it seemed he was in a good place personally and musically, working on a new record with Soundgarden, performing his solo “Songbook” shows and even talking about a possible Audioslave reunion after playing a few songs with the band at a show in January.
Soundgarden was the first of the big grunge bands from Seattle to get signed to a major label, and Cornell was the preeminent rock and roll frontman with an unparalleled vocal range and driving intensity to his singing. Songs such as “Outshined,” “Black Hole Sun” and “Rusty Cage” remain some of the best-known anthems of the genre.
Cornell’s tragic death, while unexpected, was one in a string of high profile frontmen passings from the grunge scene. His friend and former roommate Andrew Wood of up and coming act Mother Love Bone overdosed on heroin and died in 1990. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain shot himself in 1994. Layne Staley of Alice in Chains was found dead in his Seattle apartment in 2002, having overdosed on heroin and cocaine. Scott Weiland, who fronted both Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, was found dead on his tour bus in December of 2015, yet another drug casualty.
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out his blog at www.thechroniclesofmc.com