15 Chris Cornell Facts You May Have Not Known

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Short Biography About Chris Cornell

Born on July 20, 1964, in Seattle, Washington – Chris Cornell was an American musician, singer, and songwriter. Best known as the lead vocalist and founding member of rock bands such as Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog.

He grew up in a family of six children with an Irish-Catholic father named Edward and a mother of Jewish background named Karen. His father was a pharmacist while his mother was an accountant and psychic.

He had two older brothers and three younger sisters, and went to the King Catholic elementary school. However, his stay in the Catholic school only lasted till his seventh grade because he used to “ask too many questions” which the teachers couldn’t explain. This only led to even more questions and problems, so he had to leave the school before getting expelled.

His love for music started developing at a young age. It all started when his mother took him to piano and guitar lessons as a kid. Music lessons for which he was very grateful to his mother and even claimed that she saved his life with them.

His music career began in the early 1980s when he joined a cover band called The Shemps. The band also featured bassist Hiro Yamamoto and guitarist Kim Thayil with whom he later founded the grunge band Soundgarden.

With Soundgarden, he rose to fame and established himself as one of the best rock vocalists at the time. In the early 90s and 00s, he was also the frontman of rock supergroups Audioslave and Temple of the Dog.

Chris suffered from depression for most of his life, which took its final toll on May 18, 2017. He committed suicide by hanging after a Soundgarden concert at the Fox Theater in Detroit, aged 52. He is survived by his spouse Vicky and his three children.

15 Chris Cornell Facts

1. He changed his surname

We all know him as Chris Cornell but that wasn’t always his surname. He was born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964. Boyle being the surname of his father, Edward.

While he was a teenager, his parents divorced, so he and his siblings adopted their mother’s maiden name – Cornell. That’s how he ended up with that surname. Which to be honest, suits him better.

2. Performed on stage while in elementary school

Long before he kicked off his professional music career, Chris had his debut performance in front of a crowd while still in elementary school. He performed the anti-war song from the 1960s ‘One Tine Soldier’. The song was written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter but sang by the Canadian pop group The Original Castle.

Seems like the music lessons his mom took him to, proved to be useful even at that age. Especially because he could overcome stage fright at a young age.

3. Drug and alcohol problems as a teenager

As mentioned in the sections above, Chris struggled with depression not only for most of his adult but teenage life as well. He started using alcohol and drugs such as marijuana and LSD at the very beginning of his teenage years.

He then managed to briefly get rid of his vices after a year of abuse but sadly relapsed to his old state by the age of 15.

Cornell even dropped out of school and rarely left the house during that period. However, things started to look brighter for him when he returned to music at the age of 16.

4. Big fan of The Beatles

And when I say that he was a big fan of The Beatles, I mean it. Maybe the biggest one.

Between the ages of nine and eleven, he listened to The Beatles fanatically after he found a large collection of the band’s records in the basement of his neighbor’s abandoned house.

In the past, Chris Cornell described this part of his childhood as years when he was a loner and struggled with anxiety. However, rock music and especially The Beatles helped him to battle and beat his demons.

5. Blue-collar worker

After dropping out of Shorewood High School and before becoming a full-time musician, Chris did various blue-collar jobs. At first, he worked as a busboy and a dishwasher at a restaurant but later worked as a fishmonger at a seafood wholesaler. Later he also worked as a sous-chef at Ray’s Boathouse, a restaurant at Shilshole Bay on Seattle’s Puget Sound shoreline.

6. Motorbike accident

In the summer of 2007 while recording his second studio album ‘Carry On’ he was involved in a road accident. Apparently, while driving through Studio City in Los Angeles, a truck rear-ended him and send him 20 feet into the air.

But luckily he managed to walk almost uninjured from the incident and only suffered minor bruises and cuts. He even returned to the studio that day to complete the recording session for his upcoming album.

7. Married two times

One of the maybe not so interesting facts about Chris Cornell is that he was married two times in his lifetime.

The first time, he married Susan Silver who was at that time the manager of Soundgarden and fellow grunge band Alice in Chains. They were married from 1990 until 2004 and had one daughter together.

The second time, he married Vicky Karayiannis in 2004 who is of Greek heritage. They were married until his death in 2017. They had two kids together (daughter and son).

8. He was called ‘The Voice’

It’s no secret that Chris Cornell had one of the best vocals in the music industry, but so did others. However, even when compared to the other great vocalist there was still something that differentiated him from them.

Many greats such as Axl Rose, Ronnie James Dio, Scott Stapp, Alice Cooper, and others called him “the best vocalist in rock”. In an interview after his death, Alice Cooper said they called Chris ‘The Voice’ “because he had the best voice in rock and roll”.

In 2013, the readers of Guitar World voted Chris Cornell “Rock’s Greatest Singer”. While Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 9th on their “Best Lead Singers of All Time” list.

9. Sold over 30 million records worldwide

This may not come as surprise to many, but 30 million records sold worldwide is still an astonishing number. He sold almost 15 million albums in the US alone. And most impressively, he achieved multi-platinum selling albums with three different bands. Not many people can say that they have achieved such a glorious feat.

10. Winner of 3 Grammy Awards

Besides that he and his bands won 3 Grammy Awards, he also received sixteen nominations. With Soundgarden, he won two Grammy Awards in 1995 for the singles ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Spoonman’. Two singles from the also Grammy-nominated album ‘Superunknown’. In 2019 he was posthumously honored for Best Rock Performance with ‘When Bad Does Good’.

In 2011 he received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his song ‘The Keeper” which featured in the movie ‘Machine Gun Preacher’.

11. Co-wrote the theme song for a James Bond movie

In 2006, alongside David Arnold, he co-wrote and performed the theme song for the upcoming James Bond movie ‘Casino Royale’. The first James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig.

The song received a Grammy Award nomination and it peaked at No.7 on the UK singles chart. As of 2019, the record has sold more than 330,000 digital copies.

With this, Chris Cornell also became the first male American artist to write and perform the theme song for a James Bond film.

12. Charitable

One of the most lovable Chris Cornell facts is that he and his spouse Vicky created a foundation for children in need. The name of the foundation is ‘Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation’ which helps the homeless, poor, abused, or neglected children. A portion of the ticket sales from his tour in 2013 ended in the foundation as well.

13. Not Religious

If you read the short bio at the beginning, this part of the Chris Cornell facts probably didn’t come as a surprise to you.

Ever since his childhood, he had always questioned religion and a lot of that has to do with him going to a Catholic school.

Consequently, one of the reasons why he left the Catholic school was because the teachers couldn’t answer the religion-related questions he asked. Questions that got him in trouble and had to leave the school before they expelled him.

Later in some TV interviews, he confirmed his agnostic views. However, he never insulted any religion, just said that it wasn’t for him.

14. Not Religious BUT…

Even though he wasn’t religious, in order to marry his second wife Vicky Karayiannis, Chris had to “convert” to Eastern Orthodoxy. His wife is of Greek heritage and is religious, so he did it for her.

He was even baptized by the Greek singer Anna Vissi at the Orthodox church in Los Angeles before their wedding.

15. ‘Superunknown’ was a mistake

Wait, don’t panic, Soundgarden‘s breakthrough album wasn’t a mistake. However, the title of the record was. Apparently, Chris watched a video named ‘Superunknown’ and said to himself “that’s a cool title for the album”! But he misread it, the actual name of the video he watched was ‘Superclown’.

It the end, I am glad that he misread it because Superunkown sounds far more badass.

If you know more interesting Chris Cornell facts and want to share them, leave a comment down below!

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Featured image by: Josh Jensen