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How Did Chris Cornell Die? His Unexpected Suicide

how did chris cornell die? chris cornell on stage singing and playing guitar
Image from Shutterstock.

From Soundgarden to Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, and more, Christopher John Cornell was a beloved member of some of the most famous groups in rock music, lending his talents as a drummer, vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and primary lyricist among them all. Considered one of the key figures of the grunge movement of the 1990s, he has been a legend of vocal belting techniques, vocal range, and more. It’s because of this that his tragic death in 2017 was the ultimate shock that fans still struggle to understand. 

So, who was Chris Cornell, and how did Chris Cornell die? What was Chris Cornell’s net worth before he died? Find out all that and more below. 

chris cornell playing guitar on stage while singing
Image from Shutterstock.

How Did Chris Cornell Die?

Chris Cornell’s death was an absolutely heart-wrenching event. Chris Cornell’s cause of death was determined to be suicide by hanging. 

Chris Cornell’s body was found around 12:15 a.m. by his bodyguard in the bathroom of the musician’s hotel room at the MGM Grand in Detroit, Michigan. All foul play was ruled out following a review of hotel surveillance video obtained by police. 

Following an autopsy, the medical examiner confirmed Chris Cornell’s cause of death, stating that his injuries “were consistent with hanging, partially suspended by the resistance exercise band” and “drugs did not contribute” to his death. This is despite the fact that a toxicology report revealed prescription drugs in his system, including Lorazepam, an anti-anxiety medicine, pseudoephedrine, a decongestant, caffeine, and naloxone, administered by emergency medical technicians at the scene. 

Cornell’s wife later blamed the Lorazepam, also known as Ativan, for her husband’s death. 

“Many of us who know Chris well noticed that he wasn’t himself during his final hours and that something was very off. We have learned from this report that several substances were found in his system,” his widow said in a statement to the press following the release of the autopsy and toxicology report. “After so many years of sobriety, this moment of terrible judgment seems to have completely impaired and altered his state of mind. 

“Something clearly went terribly wrong, and my children and I are heartbroken and are devastated that this moment can never be taken back,” the statement continued. “We very much appreciate all of the love we have received during this extremely difficult time and are dedicated to helping others in preventing this type of tragedy.”  

Related: 23 Famous People Who Committed Suicide

When Did Chris Cornell Die?

Chris Cornell died on May 18, 2017. 

Cornell was survived by his second wife. He was also survived by his three children, bandmates, extended family, and friends. 

How Old Was Chris Cornell When He Died?

When Chris Cornell passed away, he was 52 years old. 

Who was at Chris Cornell’s Funeral?

Eight days after his death, Chris Cornell’s funeral was held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. The event attracted several mourners and had high-profile speakers, including Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, and Ben Shepherd, who are all members of Soundgarden. 

There were also many celebrity attendees there to pay their last respects to the deceased. Was Brad Pitt at Chris Cornell’s funeral? Yes, as was Pharrell, Christian Bale, James Franco, and many others.

One of the most touching tributes of the night included a performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” sung by Chester Bennington and Brad Delson of Linkin Park, answering the frequently asked questions, “Who sang ‘Hallelujah’ at Chris Cornell’s funeral?” and “Did Chester Bennington go to Chris Cornell’s funeral?”

Sadly, Bennington would meet the same fate just two months later, seemingly unable to deal with the loss of his close friend. He passed away on July 20, 2017. He was also deceased in a suicidal death by hanging. 

To close out Chris Cornell’s funeral, another tribute song was sung, Temple of the Dog’s “All Night Thing.” 

Related: Linkin Park Singer, Chester Bennington Commits Suicide at 41

Where is Chris Cornell Buried?

Is Chris Cornell buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery? Yes. He was cremated prior to the funeral and burial. 

Who is buried next to Chris Cornell? Chris Cornell’s ashes were placed next to the cenotaph statue marking the grave of his friend Johnny Ramone, a guitarist and founding member of the punk band the Ramones. Ramone is not actually buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. While he, too, was cremated, Ramone’s ashes were given to his widow. 

Who Inherited Chris Cornell’s Money?

According to Chris Cornell’s will, the entirety of Chris Cornell’s estate was to go to his second wife, Vicky Karayiannis, as the sole beneficiary. Like many such situations, Chris Cornell’s will brought up controversy between Karayiannis and his first wife and daughter. 

Because of previous agreements with his first wife about paying for his oldest daughter’s college tuition, there was much dispute over part of Chris Cornell’s estate needing to continue the payment. 

What Were Chris Cornell’s Last Words?

Sadly, Chris Cornell’s widow’s sentiments about their final phone call were only emphasized by the last words he ever said to her, “I’m just tired.” 

His wife later said of the call, “When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him.” 

When Was Chris Cornell Born?

Chris Cornell’s birthdate was July 20, 1964. 

Chris Cornell’s Zodiac sign was Cancer. That meant he was deeply intuitive and sentimental but also security-seeking, self-protective, and goofy. It also means that a large part of his strength was being tenacious, passionate, devoted, imaginative, persuasive, and sensitive. 

Chris Cornell’s Ethnicity

Chris Cornell has both Irish and Jewish in his background, thanks to his parents. 

Where was Chris Cornell From?

Chris Cornell was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. 

Where Did Chris Cornell Live?

At the time of his death, Chris Cornell was living with his family in Detroit, Michigan. 

How Tall was Chris Cornell?

Chris Cornell’s height was approximately 6 feet, 2-and-a-half inches tall. 

How Much Did Chris Cornell Weigh?

Chris Cornell’s weight proves that he wasn’t just tall but slim. Although, on average, he weighed around 180 pounds, although he once said that he had gotten down to approximately 145 pounds, “which is pretty skinny.” 

How Did Chris Cornell Become Famous?

Chris Cornell first gained his fame as the lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and rhythm guitarist of both the hit rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. 

Chris Cornell’s Parents

Chris Cornell is one of six children born to pharmacist Edward F. Boyle, an Irish Catholic, and accountant Karen Boyle, a Jew and self-proclaimed psychic. 

Following his parent’s divorce, he and his siblings took their mother’s maiden name, Cornell. He has credited his mother for putting him on the path to his rock career, thanks to her buying him a snare drum, his first instrument. 

Chris Cornell’s Siblings

Chris Cornell was in the middle of his three siblings, with two older brothers and three younger sisters surrounding him. 

Who Was Chris Cornell Married To?

In his life, Chris Cornell was married twice. After five years of dating, he married his first wife, Susan Silver, in 1990. They divorced 14 years later in 2004. 

Not long after splitting from Silver, Cornell married publicist Vicky Karayiannis in 2004. In 2012, the pair created the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, an organization that works to aid the poor and homeless as well as abused and neglected children. Since forming the foundation, several proceeds from ticket sales for Cornell’s shows have benefited the foundation. 

Chris,Cornell,And,Vicky,Karayiannis on the red carpet at an event
Image from Shutterstock.

Chris Cornell’s Children

Chris Cornell’s children were born from both of his romantic relationships. Chris Cornell’s daughter with Susan Silver, whom they named Lillian Jean, was born on June 28, 2000. 

Four years later, Vicky Karayiannis gave birth to Cornell’s second daughter, Toni, in September 2004. One year later, Chris Cornell’s son, Christopher Nicholas, was born in December 2005. 

Chris Cornell’s Net Worth

At the time of Chris Cornell’s death, his net worth had grown to approximately $60 million. 

How Did Chris Cornell Get Rich?

Chris Cornell’s endless wealth and riches were thanks to his highly successful music career. This includes his concert tours, album sales, and royalties from his discography collection.

Additionally, Cornell also held multiple endorsement deals with various companies, most notably Gibson Guitars. 

Throughout his career, his annual salary and income varied, but still, he was considered one of the most successful and influential musicians in the business. Therefore, we estimate that his minimum annual salary was at least a couple million dollars. 

Chris Cornell’s Cars

Chris Cornell may have had a lot of money and could have afforded whatever and how many cars he wanted no matter what the price was, but to him, only one was necessary. According to a 2017 post on the official Facebook page for actor James Dean, “The late rockstar Chris Cornell owned a vintage 1955 Porsche Spyder, the very same model of James Dean’s famous cursed “Little (expletive). #RIPChris.” 

There’s no telling how much he paid for it, but we’re sure the cost was a good portion of what he earned a year. 

Chris Cornell’s House

Chris Cornell’s net worth included multiple properties and estates to his name prior to his death. This included a mansion in Los Angeles and a vacation home in Seattle on the shores of Lake Washington. 

Just weeks before Chris Cornell’s death in 2017, Cornell’s Beverly Hills estate was listed for sale for a whopping 5.5 million dollars. The massive property included his own state-of-the-art recording studio, serving as a shrine to his passion and dedication to music. 

Early Life

Chris Cornell grew up going to a Catholic elementary school, Christ the King. It was there that Cornell performed for the first time, bringing passion to “One Tin Soldier,” a 1960s anti-war song. Later, his mother pulled him and his sister out of the school, thinking they were about to be expelled. 

“With a religion like that, it’s not designed for anyone to question,” Cornell later explained during an interview with Request magazine in 1994, noting that his mother feared he and his sister were too curious for the school. “Being young people who have a natural curiosity and half a brain, you’re going to start finding inconsistencies, which there are tons of in organized religion. We both sort of made it clear in classroom situations that we didn’t get it. ‘Explain this to me.’ And they couldn’t, so we started creating a lot of problems.” 

From there, Cornell went to Shorewood High School, although he would never graduate, dropping out in the middle of his education. Instead, his music flourished, pulling from influences like Little Richard and The Beatles and honing his skills on the piano and guitar from the lessons he took as a child. 

As he pursued his music, he held a number of odd jobs, from a busboy, a dishwasher, a fishmonger, and even a sous-chef. Then, he joined The Shemps, a Seattle-based cover band, and soon things would be off and running. 

Related: Best Early Beatles Songs


The majority of Chris Cornell’s career was spent with Soundgarden (1984-1997; 2010-2017). Cornell served in many capacities with the band over the years, initially on drums and vocals and eventually on rhythm guitar. 

With the band, Chris Cornell was part of multiple Soundgarden albums such as Ultramega OKSuperunknownDown on the Upside, and King Animal. It was in these albums that came such songs as “Jesus Christ Pose,” “Outshined,” and “Rusty Cage,” which Johnny Cash covered.

Sadly, tensions grew among the members of the band, and they disbanded in 1997. While it had to be a hit to Cornell personally, he didn’t let it get him down long, pushing on to his solo career in 1998, further adding to his cash and revenue. 

The first of Chris Cornell’s albums, Euphoria Morning, was released in 1999 and brought about such Chris Cornell songs as “Can’t Change Me” and “Preaching the End of the World.” 

The first part of his solo career was short-lived thanks to the forming of his second most popular band, Audioslave, in 2001, with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk. “He stepped to the microphone and sang the song, and I couldn’t believe it,” Morello said of Cornell singing “Slaves & Bulldozers.” “It didn’t just sound good. It didn’t sound great. It sounded transcendent. And .. when there is an irreplaceable chemistry from the first moment, you can’t deny it.” 

As a group, they would release three studio albums, which included hits like “Out of Exile,” “Be Yourself,” “Your Time Has Come,” and “Doesn’t Remind Me.” Although there was much success with the band, Cornell left the band on February 15, 2007, stating, “Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band Audioslave. I wish the other three members nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors.” 

After leaving Audioslave, Cornell resumed his solo career, releasing two more albums, including Carry On (2007) and Scream (2009). Then, in 2010, something so many fans had been waiting for happened. Soundgarden reunited. “The 12-year break is over, and school is back in session. Sign up now. Knights of the Soundtable ride again!” Cornell wrote on Twitter on January 1, 2010. 

It was indeed true with the beloved band going on tours, with fans anxious to get tickets no matter the price they were to pay, and releasing their first studio album in more than 15 years, King Animal, in 2012. It was all perfect. Then, Cornell’s death came, and the band opted to dissolve once again instead of replacing the beloved musician. 

Related: 15 Best 90s Songs

chris cornell playing guitar on stage
Image from Shutterstock.

What Was Chris Cornell’s Range?

Chris Cornell had a very unique voice with a wide vocal range. With an estimated four octaves that his voice could soar throughout, he could be both powerful and hit extremely high notes with absolute ease. 

How Good of a Guitarist Was Chris Cornell?

Well, we’re always open to the opinions of others. Still, we have to agree with “Although he may have not made his name playing nimble-fingered solos or flaunting refined technical chops, Chris Cornell was truly one of the guitar greats of our time. His legacy will outshine his tragic death.” 

What Kind of Boots Did Chris Cornell Wear?

Chris Cornell famously wore lace-up Dr. Martens during his Lollapalooza 1992 performance in a move that The New York Times called “When Grunge Made Blue-Collar Culture Cool.” 


It’s always heartbreaking when we lose a beloved musician who brought so much joy over the years with their music, but the story of Chris Cornell has to be one of the most gut-wrenching of them all. Whether his widow is right and medication was to blame for putting him in the mindset, anytime a person feels death is their only way out, it can’t help but bring on tears. The only thing that helps is that there is no doubt that is right. His legacy will indeed outshine his tragic death for years to come. 

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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