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 honour Cornell.
A bench near the centre 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.
Cornell was found dead in his Detroit hotel bathroom on Wednesday night after playing a concert in the city with the grunge band, with the Wayne County Medical Examiner announcing that the cause of death had been determined as suicide.
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.
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 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.”
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.
Detroit police spokesman Dan Donakowski said that officers were called to Cornell’s hotel around midnight by a friend of the musician and found Cornell “laying in his bathroom, unresponsive and he had passed away”.
Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden and later Audioslave, had tweeted earlier on Wednesday: “#Detroit finally back to Rock City !!!! @soundgarden.”
“What I look forward to the most – because I tour so much, especially the last couple of years, by myself – is the camaraderie. It’s what we missed when we weren’t a band,” Cornell had posted on Facebook on Tuesday.
The band had reunited in 2010 after years on hiatus and were in the middle of a US tour.
The group was formed in Seattle in the 1980s by Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto 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.
They achieved mainstream success with their third studio album, Badmotorfinger. Released in 1991, it spawned the singles “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Rusty Cage” and “Outshined”.
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 for Mother Love Bone.
Three years later, Soundgarden broke through on mainstream radio with the album Superunknown, which debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Record in 1995. It included hit singles “Spoonman”, “Fell on Black Days”, “Black Hole Sun”, “My Wave” and “The Day I Tried to Live”.
Soundgarden disbanded in 1997 due to tensions in the band and Cornell pursued a solo career. In 2001, he joined Audioslave, a supergroup that included former Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford.
Audioslave disbanded in 2007, but Cornell and Soundgarden reunited in 2012 and released the band’s sixth studio album, King Animal, in 2012.
Cornell released five solo records and toured Australia in 2015 with a string of shows off the back of the album Higher Truth.
He also became involved in philanthropy and started the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation to support children facing challenges, including homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect.
The musician had spoken openly in interviews of his struggles with drugs as a teenager, and later with alcohol. But he said in 2007 that he had been sober since checking himself into rehab in 2002. He also spoke of periods of depression and agoraphobia.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467. MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.
Make your contribution to independent news
A donation of any size to InDaily goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. South Australia needs more than one voice to guide it forward, and we’d truly appreciate your contribution. Please click below to donate to InDaily.