The ongoing legal battle between Soundgarden’s surviving members and Chris Cornell’s widow took another twist this week.
The Seattle rock icons filed a countersuit Wednesday accusing Vicky Cornell of withholding money raised through a star-studded benefit concert held last year in the late singer’s honor, instead using it for personal purposes — an accusation Cornell denies.
The “I Am the Highway” show, held in Los Angeles in January 2019, featured performances from Cornell’s bandmates and a number of Seattle greats — including members of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Brandi Carlile — alongside other music stars ranging from Metallica to Miley Cyrus.
According to documents filed in a Florida district court, the countersuit contends that the tribute concert is “believed to have raised many millions of dollars” for The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, a nonprofit the couple founded in 2012 that raises money for organizations helping vulnerable children. The Soundgarden members claim that beyond a $643,000 donation to a medical research foundation, other recipients of the concert revenue have not been identified.
In the countersuit, first reported by Rolling Stone, the band accuses Vicky Cornell of “fraudulent inducement.”
“A thorough accounting is required because Vicky Cornell promised Soundgarden that no portion of the revenue generated from the Cornell Concert would be used for anything other than charitable purposes as consideration to induce Soundgarden to play,” they claim.
Filed on behalf of Soundgarden’s surviving members Kim Thayil, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron, the countersuit is the latest development in a contentious legal saga stemming over the rights to vocal recordings Chris Cornell made before his death. The band contends the seven songs were intended for an upcoming Soundgarden album. Vicky Cornell initiated legal action last year, contending the band has withheld royalty payments from her.
In a statement, Vicky Cornell’s attorney Marty Singer denied the accusations and promised a “swift legal response.”
“It is unfortunate that Chris Cornell’s three former bandmates — who have made millions of dollars from Chris’ hard work, talent and creativity — continue to attack Chris’ legacy, his widow, and his young children by making salacious, scurrilous, and vicious allegations in order to distract from the truth,” Singer said.
Singer stated that the concert raised more than $1 million for the Cornell’s foundation and that $650,000 was donated to the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation (in a separate letter to Soundgarden’s attorneys, he stated the rest of the funds have either been donated or remain in the foundation’s accounts for future “charitable endeavors”). Singer also claimed that Soundgarden was paid $78,000 to perform at the L.A. tribute show.
Vicky Cornell addressed the accusations directly on social media.
“When you attack the foundation you attack my husband’s legacy,” she wrote in an Instagram Story. “The foundation has nothing to do with who owns Chris’s vocal recordings. Their knowingly false accusations are a deliberate attempt to harm not just my credibility but the Foundation my husband and I created and everything WE stand for.”
Chris Cornell died in May 2017 while on tour with Soundgarden. His death was ruled a suicide.