There were four major acts that defined the grunge era – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. The driving force behind Soundgarden was lead singer and primary songwriter Chris Cornell, who died suddenly this morning at the age of 52. He formed Soundgarden in 1984 with guitarist Kim Thayill and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. They found their first taste of success in 1988, when MTV started playing the video to their single ‘Flower’.

In 1991, Cornell formed the one-off act Temple of the Dog, with bandmates that would go on to become Pearl Jam. The self-titled album they released was a tribute to Cornell’s roommate Andrew Wood. Wood had been the lead singer of Mother Love Bone, and had died of a heroin overdose the year before. Temple of the Dog was re-released several years later when the members had found mainstream success, and the project is now part of the well-known grunge catalogue.

Mainstream success was still three years away. After a few lineup changes, the release of the great album Batmotorfinger, and a tour supporting Guns N Roses, Soundgarden exploded onto the national stage along with the rest of Seattle’s grunge scene in 1994. Following the massive success of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, Soundgarden’s Superunknown debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts and went five times platinum. It won two Grammys, for Hard Rock Song (Black Hole Sun) and for Heavy Metal Song (Spoonman).

Following the Superunknown album, internal conflicts in Soundgarden led to their breakup, and Cornell joined with Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Brad Wilk, and Tim Commerford to form the “supergroup” Audioslave.

Cornell left Audioslave after three albums and pursued a solo career, which peaked with the song ‘You Know My Name’, the theme for the James Bond movie Casino Royale in 2006. It won several awards, and was nominated for a Grammy. It was the first James Bond theme that didn’t share a title with the movie since Octopussy.

He found continued solo success throughout the 2000s, and you may have heard this one on CHEZ many times over the past few years.

There was also this classic, featured in the Gerard Butler movie Machine Gun Preacher:

Soundgarden re-formed in 2010, and continued to tour and perform (including a stop at Ottawa’s Bluesfest in 2011) right up until last night, when they played a show at the Fox theatre in Detroit. We’ll leave you with more from Cornell, who was voted the #9 lead singer of all time by readers of Rolling Stone and voted the #1 singer in rock music by the readers of Guitar World.

Filed under: Audioslave, Chris Cornell, Soundgarden