Chris Cornell's Widow Sues Soundgarden, Claiming Thousands Owed in Unpaid Royalties

Chris Cornell's widow has sued Soundgarden over royalty payments.
Chris Cornell and his wife, Vicky, in 2011. Getty

The widow of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell has sued the band, claiming they withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties to "strong-arm" her into giving them unreleased recordings by her late husband.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Florida, alleges band members Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Hunter Benedict Shepherd and business manager Rit Venerus "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."

Cornell took his own life in 2017 at the age of 52.

According to the suit, he made seven recordings at his Florida studio that same year, and there was not "any explicit agreement" the music was intended for the band. Vicky Cornell says she agreed to share the songs with Soundgarden for a new album, as long as the band used her husband's "trusted producer" and kept her informed about marketing strategies.

But band members didn't commit to that producer, the suit claims, and refused "any type of approval process" about how the album would be marketed.

None of the defendants named in the suit have commented publicly. But a letter included in the complaint, written by a Soundgarden attorney, says the band had been working with Chris Cornell "in a collaborative effort" and the music they created was the property of the band. The letter also listed the songs in question, noting three were co-written by Cameron, while Thayil and Shepherd were co-writers on one song each.

The legal action illuminated hard feelings that have developed between the band and Vicky Cornell since her husband's death. She alleges band members failed to provide emotional support to her and her children since Cornell's passing. In an Instagram post, wrote of feeling betrayed and abandoned.

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I have been taking time these past few weeks to be grateful for all the good people around me and for those who have lifted me up at the very worst times in my life. The silver lining, during the storm, is finding and appreciating the subtle glow of those who sincerely support you in your life unconditionally. However, sometimes while you grieve the one you physically lost, you realize that you must now grieve the loss of some of those you considered friends and family as well. I am shocked at how often this occurs. It’s not just me, or the rock-star widow, or the political widow; it is the case for the vast majority of women after their partners have passed. It transcends socio-economic class, race, and religion. It is an unpleasant and unfortunately all too common theme. Hard-hearted family members, friends, and business associates; who will exploit a widow’s vulnerability when she’s broken and alone. These other people who have decided that her time is up as well. Through support groups and other widowed friends, and during both difficult and supportive conversations, I have learned that I am not a unique case. This seems to be the inevitable plight of the widow in this world and I cannot help feeling angry, sad and betrayed. I will not be bullied or shamed into silence. I will not accept something so wrong, so lacking in compassion or decency, even with the clear but unspoken threat of social rejection hanging over me. This was not the way I would have chosen to move forward. But I will not be pushed aside for someone else’s convenience or gain. I will not sacrifice our children’s futures for someone else’s greed. And I will not let someone else make me feel shame because the man I loved was taken from all of us too soon. I will do justice by my husband’s work and memory; for our children and for everything we stood for. I want to thank everyone who has stood by Chris and has supported us through this devastating time. Your love and your kindness will never be forgotten. #chriscornell forever 🖤

A post shared by Vicky Cornell (@vickycornell) on

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