The surviving members of Soundgarden have countersued Chris Cornell’s widow, Vicky Cornell, alleging that she used funds from a 2019 benefit concert for her own “personal purposes.” They also contend that she has taken over the band’s social media accounts without permission, and have also formerly responded to her claims over rights to unreleased songs they say were intended for a new Soundgarden album.
Back in December, Vicky sued the Soundgarden members, accusing them of falsely claiming ownership of seven unreleased songs and withholding royalties from her over the dispute. The band had insisted that the songs were meant for a new Soundgarden album, but Vicky claimed no formal agreement was made between Chris and his bandmates as to the intended destination of the tracks.
In their countersuit, filed Wednesday (May 6th), and published by Rolling Stone, Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron, Kim Thayil, and Ben Shepherd not only responded to those claims, but also levied a number of other serious accusations against Vicky. One of the most glaring is that she used proceeds from the all-star January 2019 concert “I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell” for “personal purposes for herself and her family,” despite the show’s intention to raise money for the charity organization The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation.
The Soundgarden members say they performed for free with the knowledge that all proceeds were going to charity, and that the concert brought in millions of dollars. They are suing Vicky for “fraudulent inducement,” alleging that “Vicky Cornell did not have the intention of using some or all of the revenue from the Cornell Concert for charitable purposes.” The Soundgarden musicians are now seeking “lost reasonable compensation” for the performance.
Vicky’s lawyer, Marty Singer, has already responded, claiming that the Soundgarden members were paid $78,000 for the performance, and that “every single penny of the proceeds generated by the concert were properly allocated and accounted for.”
Soundergarden also claim that Vicky has taken over the band’s social media accounts without permission. According to their suit, Vicky has “removed fan comments and has herself posted images and comments to publicly-accessible Band Social Media pages. Some of those postings by Vicky Cornell are intended to denigrate the Band and Surviving Band Members.”
Regarding the seven unreleased songs, the band members contend that Vicky is well aware that Chris’ vocal tracks were always intended for a new Soundgarden album, and not for a solo effort or any other project. Their countersuit alleges that Vicky filed a complaint for the “true purpose of extorting Soundgarden into conceding rights to which she is not legally entitled, and of coercing Soundgarden to prematurely distribute Soundgarden funds to her.”
Furthermore, the band also shared an email exchange between Matt Cameron and Vicky Cornell, in which Cameron asks for access to the vocal files, which were on a laptop that the band returned to Vicky upon Chris’ death. In the exchange, Vicky does appear to concede that she’d like to see Soundgarden release the songs for the fans, but insists she must have say in which producer the band can choose for the project. To which Cameron responded as follows:
“We have no issues with including you/Ron/label with a marketing plan once the new music is finished, but we have to finish the music first. We want to the opportunity to use Chris’ vocals from his demos to build the new tracks from. 3 of the songs I co-wrote, 1 song Ben co-wrote, Chris wrote 2 songs entirely, Kim co-wrote 1 song. There could be more finished vocals/songs buried somewhere in the files, we won’t know until we listen. I supplied Peter with a list of producers I contacted about the project. Apparently you had no idea who Butch Vig was, but he would be great for something like this, rebuilding tracks from source material. Chris always recorded amazing demos, so lucky for us, his demo vocals were perfect for these new songs. We just have to find his vocal tracks from his demos/computer files. You are conflating many unrelated topics in your email. We would never do anything to tarnish Chris’ legacy, a legacy we feel honored to be a part of.”
As per Cameron’s email, it seems like Soundgarden was eyeing Butch Vig (Nirvana’s Nevermind) as the ideal producer for the album. The full countersuit offers much more in the way of details regarding the unreleased material, and other matters. It can be seen in full below.
In her Instagram stories, Vicky Cornell responded to the countersuit, stating:
“As my beloved Chris would say, ‘They’ve reached a whole new low.’ A very easily disproven one… When you attack the foundation, you attack my husband’s legacy. The foundation has nothing to do with the issue of who owns Chris’s vocal recordings. Their knowingly false allegations are a deliberate attempt to not just harm my credibility but the Foundation my husband and I created and everything WE stand for.”
Chris Cornell died on May 18th, 2017, following a Soundgarden show in Detroit. The official cause of death was ruled suicide by hanging.