Soundgarden, Chris Cornell Estate Settle Lawsuits, Pave Way for Final Recordings
Soundgarden and Chris Cornell’s estate have ended a protracted legal battle, paving the way for seven final recordings with Cornell to finally see release.
“Soundgarden and Vicky Cornell, on behalf of the Estate of Chris Cornell, are happy to announce they have reached an amicable out of court resolution,” read a statement shared on Cornell’s Instagram. “The reconciliation marks a new partnership between the two parties, which will allow Soundgarden fans around the world to hear the final songs that the band and Chris were working on. The two parties are united and coming together to propel, honor and build upon Soundgarden’s incredible legacy as well as Chris’s indelible mark on music history — as one of the greatest songwriters and vocalists of all time.”
A rep for the band declined to comment further, though they reposted Cornell’s statement on Soundgarden’s official Instagram page. The move comes as a victory for the group, who are now cleared to release new music. It’s unclear, however, when that would happen.
Cornell, who died in 2017, is credited as a writer on all seven songs, receiving sole credit on two, “Cancer” and “Stone Age Mind.” He wrote “Road Less Traveled,” “Orphans,” and “At Ophians Door” with Matt Cameron; “Ahead of the Dog” with Kim Thayil; and “Merrmas” with Ben Shepherd.
The dispute dates back to late 2019, when Vicky Cornell sued the surviving members of Soundgarden, accusing them of withholding royalties from her over the seven recordings. It claimed the band “shamelessly conspired to wrongfully withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars indisputably owed to Chris’ widow and minor children in an unlawful attempt to strong-arm Chris’ Estate into turning over certain audio recordings created by Chris before he passed away.”
Vicky claimed that Cornell made the unreleased recordings in his personal studio in Florida in 2017, and that there was no explicit agreement that they were for Soundgarden, making Chris Cornell (and thus his estate) the exclusive owner. She also alleged that after Cornell’s death she agreed to share the recordings with Soundgarden, so long as they used one of Cornell’s “trusted producers” and kept her informed about a possible marketing strategy — two conditions the band allegedly ignored.
Soundgarden countered in early 2020 that the unreleased recordings actually stemmed from band writing and recording sessions that dated as far back as 2015. The band’s motion cited public interviews with Cornell and Thayil about working on this material as early as 2015, as well as “emails between the band members (including Cornell) exchanging audio files and lyrics, file metadata through Dropbox, and other tangible evidence such as full ‘live’ audio recordings of the band working on and performing the songs at its Seattle studios.”
Soundgarden’s motion also included text exchanges in which Vicky referred to the unreleased recordings as the “SG files.” There was also a March 2017 email from her in which she allegedly said that Cornell was traveling for the “SG record.”
On top of the dispute over the final recordings, Vicky opened up another front in the legal battle with a second lawsuit in February 2021. In that filing, Vicky asked a judge to settle a dispute over how much her inherited stake in the band was worth (she claimed the band offered to purchase Cornell’s interest “for the villainously low figure of less than $300,000”).
In response to that lawsuit, Soundgarden said in a statement that Vicky and the Cornell estate had “hijacked” the band’s social media accounts, “misleading and confusing our fans.” That portion of the feud was settled a few months later in June 2021, when the two parties agreed that control over the social media accounts would transfer back to the band’s surviving members.