Ask anyone yesterday, and the answer would have been that Chris Cornell had seemingly survived the sort of demons that had consumed so many rock 'n' roll stars before him, including fellow founding members of the very Seattle grunge scene that birthed Soundgarden in the 1980s.
So when people started to wake up yesterday morning to news that Cornell had died at the age of 52, the grief that started pouring out from his fellow artists and legions of fans was palpable. A few hours later an autopsy confirmed that Cornell had committed suicide by hanging himself.
And as the tributes to his musical prowess are written—his was considered to be one of the greatest voices in rock, a booming yet nuanced voice capable of leading a headbanging frenzy in a packed stadium and commanding silence with an unplugged ballad—the feeling of shock will be unshakable.
After all, he died in the middle of a tour, hours after Soundgarden performed at Detroit's Fox Theatre. Only in hindsight does Cornell's final bit of creative license onstage, mixing in a bit of Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying" with his band's "Slaves & Bulldozers," seem fraught with meaning.