Birthplace of grunge mourns 'Seattle's son' Chris Cornell

Grief-stricken Chris Cornell fans left flowers at memorials across Seattle for the musician whose forceful, somber songs helped cement the city's place in rock history

posted May 19, 2017 7:12 a.m. | updated May 19, 2017 7:12 a.m. (CDT)
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by / CHRIS GRYGIEL Associated Press

  • Chris Cornell Seattle
    Elaine Thompson | Enlarge
    - Flowers are placed on a bench at the Sound Garden sculpture, for which the band Soundgarden was named, in Seattle's Magnuson Park in tribute to Chris Cornell, Thursday, May 18, 2017. Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-1
    Elaine Thompson | Enlarge
    - Chad White lifts his son Ignatius as he stands near a flower-covered bench at the Sound Garden sculpture, for which the band Soundgarden was named, in Seattle's Magnuson Park in tribute to Chris Cornell, Thursday, May 18, 2017. Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-2
    Elaine Thompson | Enlarge
    - Flowers sit on a bench at the Sound Garden sculpture, for which the band Soundgarden was named, in Seattle's Magnuson Park in tribute to Chris Cornell, Thursday, May 18, 2017. The sculpture features vertical, organ-like pipes that make sounds depending upon wind direction and speed, and overlooks Lake Washington. Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-3
    Elaine Thompson | Enlarge
    - A family walks through the Sound Garden sculpture, for which the band Soundgarden was named, in Seattle's Magnuson Park, Thursday, May 18, 2017. Chris Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-4
    Elaine Thompson | Enlarge
    - People sit quietly around the Sound Garden sculpture, for which the band Soundgarden was named, in Seattle's Magnuson Park, Thursday, May 18, 2017. Chris Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
  • White Sox Mariners Baseball Chris Cornell-5
    Ted S. Warren | Enlarge
    - A tribute to singer Chris Cornell is shown on a video display at Safeco Field in Seattle before a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox, Thursday, May 18, 2017. Cornell, who was born and raised in Seattle and was part of the group of artists who formed the grunge scene, died Wednesday in Detroit, following a performance of his band, Soundgarden. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
  • White Sox Mariners Baseball Chris Cornell-6
    Ted S. Warren | Enlarge
    - A tribute to singer Chris Cornell is shown on a video display at Safeco Field in Seattle before a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox, Thursday, May 18, 2017. Cornell, who was born and raised in Seattle and was part of the group of artists who formed the grunge scene, died Wednesday in Detroit, following a performance of his band, Soundgarden. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-7
    Grant Hindsley | Enlarge
    - Flowers and cards sit in front of a large image with a depiction of Chris Cornell on it during a memorial for Cornell on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Seattle. Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (Grant Hindsley/seattlepi.com via AP)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-8
    Grant Hindsley | Enlarge
    - Mourners attend a memorial for Chris Cornell on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Seattle. Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (Grant Hindsley/seattlepi.com via AP)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-9
    Grant Hindsley | Enlarge
    - Mourners yell "Chris!" followed by a moment of silence during a memorial for Chris Cornell on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Seattle. Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (Grant Hindsley/seattlepi.com via AP)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-10
    Grant Hindsley | Enlarge
    - A woman wipes her eyes during a memorial for Chris Cornell on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Seattle. Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (Grant Hindsley/seattlepi.com via AP)
  • Chris Cornell Seattle-11
    Grant Hindsley | Enlarge
    - Mourners gather at the the Sound Garden sculpture, for which the band Soundgarden was named, in Seattle's Magnuson Park in tribute to Chris Cornell, Thursday, May 18, 2017. The sculpture features vertical, organ-like pipes that make sounds depending upon wind direction and speed, and overlooks Lake Washington. Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52. (Grant Hindsley/seattlepi.com via AP)

SEATTLE (AP) — Grief-stricken Chris Cornell fans left flowers at memorials across Seattle for the musician whose forceful, somber songs helped cement the city’s place in rock history.

One of the locations where people gathered was the Sound Garden art sculpture at a Seattle park, for which Cornell’s band Soundgarden was named.

“It’s really sad that he could never find peace in his life,” said Chad White, who came to the art display with his young son Ignatius to honor Cornell.

A bench near the center of the sculpture was covered with flower arrangements, one of which included a note, “Say ‘hello’ to Heaven,” a reference to a song written by Cornell for a musician friend who died decades ago.

KEXP, Seattle’s popular independent radio station, paid tribute to Cornell all day. The station played non-stop songs from Soundgarden, Cornell’s other bands and his solo work, as well as artists who covered Cornell’s material and those who were influenced by him.

“Seattle’s son, Chris Cornell, has passed away,” DJ John Richards told listeners.

The city’s Space Needle went dark at 9 p.m. for an hour in tribute to Cornell.

Cornell was born and raised in the city and was part of a close-knit group of artists who formed the foundation of what would become the grunge scene that exploded in the early 1990s by combining the bombast of early 1970s heavy metal with the aggression and attitude of punk rock.

“He was a huge influence, one of the greatest singers ever to come out of Seattle, maybe the greatest single voice,” said Charles R. Cross, a Seattle-based music journalist and author who knew Cornell personally.

“I don’t even know what to say. I’m just shocked,” he said. “We don’t know the full story. The darkness I knew. But it’s a devastating loss.”

Authorities say Cornell hanged himself in a Detroit hotel room Wednesday following a Soundgarden concert. The band had reunited in 2010 after years on hiatus.

The group formed in Seattle in the 1980s at a time when the city was far off the beaten path of the musical mainstream and there were few venues for smaller artists to play original material.

Cornell was roommates with Andrew Wood, lead singer of the Mother Love Bone, who died of a heroin overdose in 1990. Two members of Mother Love Bone went on to form Pearl Jam and they joined Cornell on a tribute project to Wood — Temple of the Dog — which helped introduce Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder to the world.

Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Mudhoney were among the most high-profile bands to come out of Seattle and dominated the pop culture landscape of the early and mid-1990s.

“In some ways, they (Soundgarden) were the last band in Seattle to become famous in the grunge era but they were the ones who worked the hardest and the longest,” Cross said. “There’s no doubt that Soundgarden’s music is very dark and melancholy at times. There are also parts of it that are very celebratory.”

Associated Press reporter Phuong Le and photographer Elaine Thompson contributed to this report.