Cornell died in Detroit while on tour with Soundgarden, according to representative Brian Bumbery. In a statement to the AP, Bumbery said his death was “sudden and unexpected.”
Detroit police are investigating the death as a possible suicide due to “basic things observed at the scene,” department spokesman Michael Woody told AP Thursday morning.
The performer first came to fame in the late ’80s as the lead singer of Soundgarden, the Seattle-based group at the forefront of the grunge rock movement along with fellow Seattle bands Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
He also contributed the song “Seasons” to Cameron Crowe’s 1992 movie “Singles” and appeared on screen with other members of Soundgarden in the director’s cinematic ode to the Seattle music scene.
Soundgarden disbanded in 1997 but reunited in 2010 and has toured regularly since then.
Just hours before his death, Cornell tweeted about his arrival in the Motor City to perform at the Fox Theatre.
From 2001-07, Cornell also performed with Audioslave, a band that included Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk.
Soundgarden won two Grammy Awards in 1995, for Best Metal Performance (“Spoonman”) and Best Hard Rock Performance (“Black Hole Sun”).
The latter song carried Cornell’s signature style, with unconventional chord progressions and large melodic interval jumps.
Cornell had a long battle with substance addiction, describing himself in a 2009 interview with The Guardian as “a pioneer” in his use of the opiate OxyContin in the years after Soundgarden first disbanded that led to a stint in rehab.
“It was the most difficult period of my life,” he told the paper. “I’m lucky I got through it.”