Details of Chris Cornell's Final Phone Call With Wife Emerge, Former Bands Pay Tribute With Facebook Blackout

Chris Cornell performs Soundgarden in 1996.
Paul Bergen/Redferns/Getty Images

Chris Cornell performs Soundgarden in 1996. 

Howard 101 Sirius radio station will air "Soundgarden: 20 Years of 'Superunknown'" on Friday.

More details have emerged about the final, troubling phone call Chris Cornell's wife had with the late Soundgarden singer less than a half hour before he committed suicide last week.

A report on TMZ paints a picture of a disturbing conversation Vicky Cornell had with her husband around 30 minutes before his body was found hanging from an exercise band in his Detroit hotel room, after what a coroner determined was a suicide. [Cornell's family lawyer, Kirk Pasich, said that the quotes attributed to Vicky by others in TMZ appear to be "accurate and consistent with what she said."] 

In the TMZ piece Vicky says just before she spoke with Chris, 52, for the final time, the lights in the family's home flicked on and off. Knowing that Cornell was able to control them remotely from his phone she asked if he had just manipulated them and he denied it, saying he'd done so an hour before. That caused suspicion, since Cornell and Soundgarden had been on stage at the Fox Theater at the time. She then says he began slurring his words, with the slurring getting worse as they continued talking, and he complained about the gig and the band's crew. 

"They f---ed up again," he reportedly said. "They had 3 days to fix my in-ears and I was getting static. I couldn't hear." Cornell also complained repeatedly that he'd blown out his voice during the show, then "changed the subject to something that made no sense." Vicky sensed something was "seriously wrong" with Chris and she said, "I need to know what you took tonight. You don't sound right, sweetheart."

Cornell told her he was "really angry and I just took 2 Ativan. I'm really pissed and I had to calm myself down," referring to a common anti-anxiety medication that can cause sleepiness when taken at higher doses. "I need to know what you took. It doesn't sound like 2 Ativan. It sounds like you took something else. You need to tell me now what you took. I forgive you," Vicky told him.

At that point, Vicky reportedly said her husband's demeanor changed, and his tone got "cocky and aggressive," not toward her, but in a way that made her recall a time 14 years earlier, near the beginning of their relationship, when the singer was abusing the prescription pain medication Oxycontin so badly that he almost died. 

When Cornell changed the subject and "made no sense at all," Vicky panicked and called her husband's bodyguard, Martin Kirsten, "begging him to race over to his room and get inside, and she said if he had to knock the door down then so be it." Though she'd never had someone check on Chris in their 14 years together, Vicky was reportedly afraid he'd die, and when the bodyguard knocked down the outer hotel room door but was unable to breach a second one, she used another phone to call the hotel and beg them to open it, screaming "he's having a heart attack!"

Vicky was still on the phone with Kirsten when he knocked down the second door and saw Cornell's body hanging from an exercise band. The total elapsed time between the time Vicky hung up on Cornell and when Kirsten found him was around 30 minutes. 

TMZ previously reported that sources close to the investigation said EMTs and police saw fresh track marks on Cornell's arms, indicating that the singer -- who has a known history of substance abuse -- had used IV drugs, something Vicky Cornell said she'd never known him to do.

Pasich told Billboard that he was not aware of anyone noticing marks on Cornell's arm before or during his last performance, nor did he believe any drug paraphernalia was recovered from the the room where Cornell was found. Since no one was seen entering or leaving the room before Cornell called his wife, "that part doesn't make sense," Pasich said.

The details emerged just days after Vicky Cornell shared an emotional letter to her departed husband with Billboard. On Friday (May 26), Soundgarden blacked out their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter page in Cornell's honor, the first public response from the group of their leader's passing. Cornell's other band, Audioslave, also blacked out their Facebook profile and used the same black and white cover photo for their profile pic, as did Temple of the Dog, the supergroup Cornell founded with future members of Pearl Jam.

The Sirius XM Howard 101 channel is running a tribute to the life and career of Cornell all day on Friday, as part of its Sternthology series. The station will also rebroadcast an exclusive 2014 "Howard Stern Presents: Soundgarden 20th Anniversary 'Superunknown' Concert, with a full performance of Soundgarden's landmark album in its entirety from New York's Webster Hall in New York, and exclusive commentary from the band.



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