Rock icon Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden passed away this week at age 52. Here’s some stuff you may not have known about grunge icon.
He trolled metal bands.
When brooding, Seattle-based “grunge” bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana came on the scene in the ‘90s, they soon displaced a lot of the glitzier, sleazy, Los Angeles based bands like Guns N’ Roses and Poison. One of Soundgarden’s songs was called “Big Dumb Sex,” which made fun of those cheesy, light-on-the-lyrics metal bands. Sample lyrics: “Don’t you don’t you want to thrill me / don’t you be afraid to tell me”…and then a few minutes of mostly the F-word.
He sold fish.
Cornell was a little bit older than the usual pop and rock star when he got his big breakthrough—he was 27 when Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger became a massive success in 1991. Before that, he played in several other Seattle bands but he paid the bills the way lots of people in the Puget Sound area do: in the seafood industry. As a teenager he worked as a fish handler at a seafood wholesaler, where his job was to “wipe up the slime and throw away the fish guts.” supplying fish to restaurants, and then served as a sous-chef at a fish place called Ray’s Boathouse. In 2006, he opened up his own restaurant and bar in the heart of Paris called Black Calavados.
He played Cuba.
In 2001, Cornell formed the supergroup Audioslave—it was made up of the members of fellow popular ‘90s rock band Rage Against the Machine, but with Cornell replacing lead singer Zack de la Rocha. The band released three bestselling albums, but in 2005 made history. Audioslave played a free concert for 70,000 people in Havana, the first American rock band to ever play on the island nation that’s been under Communist rule since the 1950s.
He survived a horrific accident.
While riding his motorcycle to a Los Angeles recording studio to work on his second solo album in 2006, Cornell was struck from behind by a truck. He was reportedly thrust 20 feet into the air, and then landed, hard, on the street. Other than some cuts and bruises for which he was treated at the scene, Cornell walked away from the accident. He was back in the studio recording tracks later that day.
His career took some unpredictable turns.
While the music of Soundgarden was dark and often gloomy, Cornell’s solo work took some unexpected turns. In 2006, he recorded a slow, soulful, acoustic guitar-driven cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” an arrangement used by American Idol winner David Cook during his time on the singing competition series. In 2007, Cornell recorded “You Know My Name,” the theme song for the James Bond reboot movie Casino Royale. Perhaps most surprisingly is his 2009 dance-pop album Scream.