Cornell, who first gained fame as the lead singer of Soundgarden and later the band Audioslave, was found dead of suicide by hanging at MGM Grand Detroit following the band’s performance at the Fox Theatre Wednesday, PEOPLE confirms.
“Chris Cornell passed away late Wednesday night in Detroit, Michigan,” Cornell’s rep said in a statement. “His wife Vicky and family were shocked to learn of his sudden and unexpected passing, and they will be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause. They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty and ask that their privacy be respected at this time.”
“Chris seemed in really great spirits and everyone is in complete shock,” a friend of the couple who saw them recently tells PEOPLE.
The rocker was currently on tour hours before his death, performed with Soundgarden at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, which he tweeted about early Wednesday.
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Soundgarden was at the forefront of the ’90s grunge music scene that rose out of Seattle. Their hits included “Spoonman,” ”Fell on Black Days,” ”Black Hole Sun,” “My Wave” and “The Day I Tried to Live.”
In his final tweet on Wednesday, Cornell announced his return to “Rock City” Detroit.
Audioslave bandmate Tom Morello, also of Rage Against the Machine, led the tributes to Cornell.
“I love you, brother. Thank you for your friendship and your humor and your intellect and your singular and unmatched talent. It was a great honor to know you as a friend and as a band mate,” Morello captioned a photo of the two. “I am devastated and deeply saddened that you are gone dear friend but your unbridled rock power, delicate haunting melodies and the memory of your smile are with us forever. Your beautiful voice and beautiful self will always be in my heart. God bless you and your family.”
I love you, brother. Thank you for your friendship and your humor and your intellect and your singular and unmatched talent. It was a great honor to know you as a friend and as a band mate. I am devastated and deeply saddened that you are gone dear friend but your unbridled rock power, delicate haunting melodies and the memory of your smile are with us forever. Your beautiful voice and beautiful self will always be in my heart. God bless you and your family.
Courtney Love, whose husband Kurt Cobain was also a member of the Seattle scene prior to his death in 1994, shared her thoughts on Instagram.
“Goodbye darling boy,” she wrote. “Please say hi to all my loved ones. I cried for you today. Rip.”
Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale expressed condolences on Twitter on Thursday, writing, “I AM SO SADDENED BY CHRIS CORNELL PASSING. @soundgarden
TOTAL SHOCK.GREAT MAN.GREAT BAND.GREAT LOSS. LOVE TO EVERYONE IN HIS WORLD. XXX.” He also retweeted Cornell’s last post.
Fellow rockers Rage Against the Machine shared a caption-less photo, with the artist’s name, a red star and his birth and death years.
Joe Perry shared a photo posing with the Grammy-winning artist. “Very sad news about Chris Cornell today. A sad loss of a great talent to the world, his friends and family. Rest In Peace,” he wrote.
Members of the rock band Heart also honored Cornell. “It’s important now to keep thoughts of Chris positive. He is on his way. We loved him well, now wish him well on his journey. He was and is a beautiful soul,” Ann Wilson said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. Added her sister and bandmate Nancy Wilson: “No one is ever prepared to hear about a death in the family. And today Chris Cornell my brother from my Seattle music family is gone. I thought his voice would forever grace the world of music. Devastating.”
Welsh rock band Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones credited Cornell for helping him find his voice.
“He is the reason I first let go & found my voice at 18. He paid me a compliment on my voice on a stage we shared years later, v sad. Kelly,” he wrote.
The tributes continued to roll in through the coming days.
Metallica’s James Hetfield spoke about the shocking death to Boston’s WAAF radio station. “It does make you hug those around you, for sure — bandmates, family that’s out here, family at home. It makes you realize that, you know, there is a darkness that anyone and everyone can find and feel that they’re trapped in.”
Jane’s Addiction frontman Dave Navarro penned an emotional essay in Billboard. “I just can’t believe that all these people I came up with are gone: Scott [Weiland], Kurt [Cobain], Layne [Staley], now Chris. All my friends are dying. How is it possible?” he writes.
Sebastian Bach remembers Cornell back when Soundgarden were opening for Bach’s band, Skid Row, in the early ’90s. Occasionally the two groups would jam together onstage, and Cornell couldn’t resist gently mocking Bach’s flamboyant stage moves. “I’d turn around, and he’d be behind my back, faking so I couldn’t see where he was,” he writes in Billboard. “And he’d be on a trampoline doing jumps behind the drum riser. I could tell he was sending up the sort of heavy-metal performance we were trying to do, always with a twinkle in his eye, laughing.”
Rock icon Alice Cooper compared Cornell’s talents to those of the Beatles. “He had the unique combination of having a hard rock voice that was also as commercial as a Paul McCartney voice,” he told Billboard.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).