Chris Cornell’s tragic suicide in 2017 still has repercussions after the former Soundgarden bandmember was found in his hotel bathroom. Cornell’s widow, Vicky Cornell, filed a lawsuit in December against the members of Soundgarden claiming that the group refuses to give Chris’s estate royalties from songs he had written in 2015. Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Ben Shepherd and Rit Venerus, the other members, deny that they are withholding funds and claim that no members are currently receiving royalties.
Chris Cornell’s Final Recordings
In dispute are Chris Cornell’s last 7 recordings composed and completed from 2015-2017 before his death. It began when Thayil spoke for the band to the media about the ownership of these recordings and suggested this was the reason for the delay of their new album. Then in November, Vicky received a letter from Soundgarden’s lawyers claiming that the recordings belonged solely to the band and made requests for her to hand them over.
Thayil, Cameron, Shepherd, and Venerus claim that these recordings were done in collaboration with e-mails that addressed audio files and lyrics shared between Thayil and Cornell referring to past public interviews. However, according to Vicky, there had been no explicit statement that the recordings were meant exclusively for Soundgarden and making Cornell the sole owner.
The recordings have yet to be released, which is why the members claim that none of them are receiving royalties. In addition, expenses must be accounted for first before any amount of money is divided amongst the members. Vicky’s lawsuit against them came without any notice and was filed in Florida creating even more legal confusion around jurisdiction with the band’s origin in Washington.
Soundgarden v. V. Cornell
After Cornell’s death, the band approached Vicky about the unreleased recordings, which Vicky agreed to share with them under the circumstances that they use a “trusted producer” and kept her in the loop about future potential album marketing. According to the lawsuit, the band refused Vicky’s requests wanting to use their own producer and musicians and did not want to commit to an approval process.
The band has had no partnership agreements with Cornell’s estate drawn, according to the suit, which also refers to an e-mail from 2013 to the band in which Cornell explicitly refused to sign any agreements saying that he no longer wanted the other members to disproportionately benefit from his creative work. The suit concludes that Soundgarden has made no negotiation attempts and instead using tactics that involve pressure, harassment, extortion and illegal management of royalties.
Soundgarden’s Response to the Lawsuit
An attorney for the band shared that from the band’s perspective, the recordings were created in collaboration and members felt positive about their rekindled artistic creativity. Soundgarden claims that music content made by any and all members, including solo Chris Cornell’s solo recordings, is rightfully under the band’s ownership. Three of the songs in question had Cameron, Thayil, and Shepherd listed as co-writers.
Chris Cornell’s Legacy
Vicky Cornell expressed her frustrations discussing how people exploit a widow’s vulnerability on social media, posing the deeper issue of the lawsuit.