8 things to know about grunge legend Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell, lead singer of seminal bands Audioslave and Soundgarden died aged 52 on May 17 (Wednesday). PHOTO: EPA
Chris Cornell, lead singer of seminal bands Audioslave and Soundgarden died aged 52 on May 17 (Wednesday). PHOTO: EPA

Grunge legend Chris Cornell, who was lead singer of seminal bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, has died aged 52.

His death on Wednesday (May 17) night local time was described as "sudden and unexpected" by representative Brian Bumbery in a statement to the Associated Press.

In fact, Cornell had just tweeted excitedly about his upcoming concert with Soundgarden in Detroit mere hours before his death.

The band last released an album, titled King Animal, in 2012.

Here are 8 things to know about him:

1. Bond theme singer

Incongruous though it seemed then, Cornell lent his powerful voice to You Know My Name, the theme song of Bond flick Casino Royale in 2006.

It was the first Bond film to feature Daniel Craig in a grittier portrayal of the suave agent, with critics praising the song for complementing the shift in mood.

The song was nominated for a Grammy award in 2008, but lost out to Jennifer Hudson's Love You I Do.

2. Winner of two Grammy awards

Together with Soundgarden, he won two Grammy awards in 1995, with songs Spoonman and Black Hole Sun awarded best metal and hard rock performances respectively.

3. Top singer according to magazine readers

Music magazine Rolling Stone's readers rated Cornell as the ninth-best lead singer of all time, in a list that included the likes of Freddie Mercury, Bono and John Lennon in the top spots.

The magazine described Cornell's voice as "(packing) so much power that over the past 20 years superstar collaborators have lined up to work with him".

This included three members of Rage Against The Machine, who would collaborate with him to form Audioslave, Santana and Pearl Jam.

4. Pre-grunge occupation

Chris Cornell worked at Seattle restaurant, Ray's Boathouse as a sous chef. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/RAY'S BOATHOUSE

Cornell worked as a seafood wholesaler and, later, a sous chef at famous Seattle restaurant Ray's Boathouse before kickstarting his professional career in grunge.

5. Beatlemania

Between the ages of nine and 11, Cornell professed to listen exclusively to music from The Beatles.

He claimed that he had found a large collection of records from the British legends abandoned in the basement of a neighbour's house and fell in love with their music.

He also said that this experience was inspirational in his musical journey and development.

6. Avid philanthropist

Together with wife Vicky, Cornell established the Chris & Vicky Cornell Foundation, a charity that works with vulnerable children. The charity currently focuses on protecting these children from the ravages of homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect.

7. Cuba concert

Together with the rest of Audioslave, Cuba performed a free concert in Havana, Cuba, in 2005. More than 70,000 people turned up for the concert, which was touted as the first by an American rock group under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro.

8. He cannot read or write music

In an interview with music magazine NME in 2011, Cornell confessed that he spent his professional career completely unable to read or write music, after he gave up learning to play the piano when he was a kid.

Said Cornell of the piano lessons: "Unfortunately, I didn't really have any direction. It just felt like school... I had kind of a mean piano teacher."