Chris Cornell’s Peers Can’t Process His Suicide

Musicians tell Rolling Stone Soundgarden singer showed no warning signs.

May 30, 2017 5:00 am
Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell performs during the Prophets Of Rage And Friends' Anti-Inaugural Ball at Teragram Ballroom on January 20, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)

If fans were having trouble wrapping their minds around the May 17 suicide of Chris Cornell, the peers who knew him for decades have no insight to give as they struggle with the loss.

The last time System of a Down singer Serj Tankian saw the Soundgarden frontman was at the April 12 Hollywood premiere of The Promise, a drama about the Armenian genocide for which both had recorded music. At the time, Tankian told Rolling Stone in an in-depth feature on Cornell,  “he was doing great, doing press – fighting the good fight.”

The final song Cornell released before his death, “The Promise,” “is about survival – to survive and thrive,” added Tankian.

“I’ve seen people in a bad place. You wish they would find a way to the light and find peace with themselves. (Cornell) wasn’t that guy. He was gracious, standing in the light.”

But somehow the 52-year-old rocker was found dead in his hotel bathroom a month after that premiere and just hours after a Soundgarden show at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Chris Cornell Serj Tankian
Chris Cornell (L) and Serj Tankian attend the ‘The Promise’ premiere during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival last September. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Guitarist Tom Morello, who played in the supergroup Audioslave for six years, reunited with his former lead singer for the Anti-Inaugural Ball in Los Angeles on January 20th.

“We hung out after the show – just laughed, took pictures. The last thing he said to me was, ‘I had such a great time. I would love to do this again. You just let me know,’” Morello told Rolling Stone.

Not the kind of statement a man contemplating suicide would normally make.

Cellphone footage from that May 17 show portrayed the normally professional singer, a man who has been sober for years, struggling to stay on the beat. In a statement, Cornell’s wife Vicky said he was slurring his words and admitted to taking “an extra (anxiety medicine) Ativan or two” in a post-concert phone call that made her worried enough to phone a security guard to check on him.

Until the toxicology report comes back, those who knew him best are left to guess what could possibly have tipped Cornell into the darkness.

“I always felt like Chris had a lonely place inside of him that he went to creatively,” said Singles director and Cornell pal Cameron Crowe.

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