Just one month before Chris Cornell’s shocking and unexpected death by suicide at age 52, the legendary rocker walked the red carpet with his wife and family for the final time to promote a passion project with family ties.
The former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman wrote and performed the end-title song for The Promise, a film that addressed the Armenian genocide. On April 18 he attended a screening of the film at New York’s Paris Theater with his wife, Vicky Karayiannis, and their two children: daughter Toni, 12, and son Christopher, 11.
“Throughout the making of The Promise, Chris Cornell was an inspiration and a friend, and the beautiful song he gave us captured the aspirations and spirit of the Armenian people. The world can ill afford to lose such a kind and gifted soul. Thank you Chris,” The Promise director Terry George told PEOPLE Thursday.
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Last month, Cornell told PEOPLE at the L.A. premiere the project moved him because his wife’s Greek family was also impacted by the WWI genocide that wiped out roughly 1.5 million Armenians.
“One of my close friends is the producer of the film, who’s Armenian, Eric Esrailian. My wife is Greek. Her grandparents were actually refugees from the same period of Greek refugees, the same policy,” he said. “If neither of those things existed, it would still be something that I would want to be a part of and be able to have the opportunity to write a song for such an impactful, and what I think of as an important film.”
And as project that was truly near and dear to Cornell’s heart, Esrailian tells PEOPLE exclusively it was clear to see “how much he cared about the song and the film.”
“He poured his heart and soul into the song … when you see him perform it live you could just see it. It means so much to me that he was so dedicated,” said the producer.
The legendary rocker promoted the film across the globe in the weeks before his death, attending the Los Angeles premiere on April 12 and the London premiere on April 6 — where he was photographed with fellow attendee George Clooney.
Cornell, who also had a 16-year-old daughter, Lillian, from his first marriage to former Soundgarden manager Susan Silver, has talked about how becoming a hands-on parent profoundly changed his life.
“Wiping your kids’ faces, washing their hands, changing their diapers — that kind of hands-on care creates a deep connection you otherwise wouldn’t have,” he told Newsweek in 2007.
That tight bond seemed to continue as his babies turned into tweens, and the proud father looked thrilled when daughter Toni joined him onstage for a duet during a New York City concert in 2015.
“I came from a childhood where I spent a lot of time alone and a lot of time just living with my imagination, and a certain amount of the adult world was kind of alienating,” he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2006. “And I find now after spending a lot of time with my babies, they’re my best friends. And I still find a certain part of the adult world alienating, so I’d rather just hang out with my kids.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Reporting by SCOTT HUVER, MIA McNIECE and NICOLE SANDS