"Don't make the successful part more important than the process of doing it," Chris Cornell said in 2015 of advice he'd give his kids for future careers

By Jen Juneau
May 18, 2017 12:00 PM
Credit: Barry King/FilmMagic

Chris Cornell‘s sudden death by suicide at the age of 52 is a tragedy felt in heavy waves across the world of music and beyond. The rocker was found dead in his hotel room in Detroit Wednesday night following what would turn out to be a final Soundgarden performance.

The frontman for Soundgarden and, later, Audioslave, Cornell helped pave the way for the grunge movement of the early and mid ’90s alongside bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

But behind the music, Cornell was also a husband and a father. Alongside his legacy, he leaves behind wife Vicky and their two children: son Christopher, 11, and daughter Toni, 12, as well as 16-year-old daughter Lillian from his previous marriage to Susan Silver.

Here are a few things Cornell said about fatherhood — and its impact on his life — over the years.

Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Babies newsletter.

Credit: Brian de Rivera Simon/WireImage
Credit: Andrew Toth/WireImage

RELATED VIDEO: Chris Cornell, Lead Singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, Dead at 52

The Impact Music Has Had on His Kids

“Music has been a part of my children’s lives,” Cornell told Inquirer.net in an April interview about The Promise, a historical drama about Armenian Genocide during World War I whose end-title theme he wrote and performed.

“I can’t compare my relationship to music with theirs because they’ve had a different experience,” Cornell continued. “But I made a point of not telling them what to listen to. My daughter Toni has an unusual list of artists and songs she listens to.”

How Being a Dad Inspired His Philanthropic Work

“The initial discussions about [The Promise] that I was having with [producer Eric Esrailian] spawned from me being a father and going through periods of stress, waking up in the middle of the night, and being aware of the different political tensions in the world,” he added to Inquirer.net.

“I never had that fear before. I thought of my responsibility about the welfare of my babies,” said Cornell, who co-launched the Chris & Vicky Cornell Foundation with his wife in 2012, “My wife and I always wanted to do something to give back to the community, because we’ve been very fortunate. First and foremost that came to mind for us were children and doing whatever we can to protect the most vulnerable ones.”

Credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

On Keeping His Children Exposed to Different Cultures

“Because I live in Rome, I’ve taken my children to the Vatican and spent a lot of time wandering around outside,” he told Inquirer.net (the musician hailed from Seattle and spent time living many different places with his wife, including Florida, New York City and Paris).

“I always wondered what it would feel like going inside,” added the “Black Hole Sun” singer. “So, screening The Promise [in the Vatican] was a very emotional day.”

On Being Supportive of the Career Direction His Kids Choose

“He’s his own guy,” Cornell told Rolling Stone Australia in September 2015 of his son Christopher. “He listens to a lot of different kinds of music, and I haven’t really tried to push him in any one direction.”

“I think my children are definitely musically inclined and they show it, and they’re exposed to a lot of it,” the singer continued. “And they’re their own people, and I think easily they could do something musical or they could do something in acting or film or other types of the arts, and I would fully support it.”

FROM PEN: The Deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Hit Hollywood Hard

The Advice He’d Give His Kids on Pursuing Music

“It has to be done for the right reason, and I’d say that to anybody,” he told Rolling Stone Australia. “Obviously I want my kids to be happy, and I believe that they can be super successful at whatever they want to do, but don’t make the successful part more important than the process of doing it. Especially if it’s an artistic endeavor.”

“Make sure that it’s inspired, that’s your chief goal, ’cause I also believe that success comes from that,” Cornell emphasized.

How Fatherhood Has Changed His Vision of the World Around Him

“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,” the “Hunger Strike” crooner told SeattlePi.com in April 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.”

Credit: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage
Credit: Jim Spellman/WireImage

On Never Feeling the Need to “Settle Into” a Certain Lifestyle

“One of the main dilemmas that’s pretty common to a lot of people who are getting older is the idea that maybe there’s a finish line and that maybe there’s a time in your life when you start to slow down and stop and smell the roses and just kind of settle into what will be a comfortable period in your life,” Cornell added to SeattlePi.com.

“And I found that for me, that’s never going to happen because that’s absolutely the last thing I want. And I think that’s a lot of why Vicky and I clicked so well — we shared that attitude.”