Chris Cornell had become one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music, thanks to his charismatic energy onstage and wide vocal range. He was a leader of the grunge movement with Seattle-based Soundgarden -- with whom he gained critical and commercial acclaim -- but also found success outside the band with other projects, including Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and solo albums.
His death Wednesday night stunned his family and his die-hard fans, who Cornell just performed for hours earlier at a show in Detroit. The city's medical examiner said in a preliminary autopsy result Thursday that the 52-year-old singer killed himself by hanging. A police spokesman told two Detroit newspapers that the singer was found with a band around his neck.
Cornell was widely respected in the music industry: He reached success in every band lineup he was part of it, his voice was memorable and powerful, and he was a skilled songwriter, even collaborating on a number of film soundtracks, including the James Bond theme song for 2006's "Casino Royale" and "The Keeper" from the film "Machine Gun Preacher," which earned Cornell a Golden Globe nomination.
Cornell, who grew up in Seattle, said he was kicked out of school at age 15 and he started using drugs at 13.
"I went from being a daily drug user at 13 to having bad drug experiences and quitting drugs by the time I was 14 and then not having any friends until the time I was 16," he told Rolling Stone in 1994. "There was about two years where I was more or less agoraphobic and didn't deal with anybody, didn't talk to anybody, didn't have any friends at all. All the friends that I had were still (messed) up with drugs and were people that I didn't really have anything in common with."
But at 16, he grew serious about music, learning to play the drums while also working as a busboy and dishwasher.
"That was the toughest time in my life," he told Rolling Stone.
He eventually became a Grammy winner with Soundgarden, formed in 1984 and coming out of the rapidly growing Seattle music scene, which included Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.
The band, which had released hit songs and found success, marked a mainstream breakthrough with "Superunknown," its 1994 album that launched five singles, won them two Grammys and sold more than five million units in the U.S.
The group, formed with guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto, broke up in 1997.
In 2001, Cornell joined Audioslave, a supergroup that included former Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford. The band released three albums in six years.
Audioslave disbanded in 2007, but Cornell and Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and released the band's sixth studio album, "King Animal" in 2012.
Cornell also collaborated with members of what would become Pearl Jam to form Temple of the Dog, which produced a self-titled album in 1991 in tribute to friend Andrew Wood, former frontman of Mother Love Bone. In 2011, he was ranked ninth on Rolling Stone list of the best lead singers of all time, selected by its readers.
Nielsen Music said as a band member and solo act, the singer sold almost 15 million albums and 8.8 million digital songs in the U.S.
Elton John tweeted, "Shocked and saddened by the sudden death of (at)chriscornell. A great singer, songwriter and the loveliest man."
"RIP Chris Cornell. Incredibly Talented. Incredibly Young. Incredibly Missed," Jimmy Page tweeted.
KEXP, Seattle's popular independent radio station, paid tribute to Cornell Thursday morning, playing nonstop songs from Soundgarden and Cornell's other bands and solo work.
"Seattle's son, Chris Cornell, has passed away," DJ John Richards told listeners.