Soundgarden has countersued the widow of frontman Chris Cornell over funds collected from a benefit concert. Vicky Cornell has been involved in an escalating legal feud with the grunge pioneers going back to 2019.
The public legal spat began in December 2019 when Vicky sued Soundgarden members Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Ben Shepherd, and business manager Rit Venerus over allegedly withholding royalties and attempts to strong-arm her into relinquishing unreleased material. Soundgarden then responded with a lawsuit of its own, claiming that seven unreleased recordings Cornell was working on at the time of his death were part of a collaborative effort and are the band’s property, rather than Vicky’s.
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The new lawsuit, obtained by Rolling Stone, centers around the “I Am The Highway: A Tribute To Chris Cornell” benefit concert that took place on January 16th, 2019. At this show, the surviving members of Soundgarden reunited under that monicker for the first time since Cornell’s suicide in 2017. The band alleges that the concert raised millions of dollars for The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, but that the “recipient(s) of the revenue…have not been identified.” Overall, Soundgarden accuses Vicky Cornell and the Chris Cornell estate of “fraudulent inducement” for using proceeds from that benefit for “personal purposes for herself and her family.”
Vicky Cornell, on the other hand, disputes the band’s claim that they performed for free that evening, stating that they were paid $78,000 to play the concert. Furthermore, Cornell’s attorney, Marty Singer, alleges that these claims by the band all circle back to the parties’ original dispute over Cornell’s unreleased recordings,
Their transparently desperate counterclaims…do not change the fact that they are the ones who have improperly asserted ownership of vocal recordings that were created solely by Chris and that they are the ones who have unlawfully withheld substantial sums of money from Chris’ widow and children.
As Chris’ former band members are well aware, every single penny of the proceeds generated by the concert were properly allocated and accounted for and their statements are not only false and defamatory but demonstrate the depths to which Chris’ former bandmates are willing to sink to tarnish his legacy.
After Cornell’s death in 2017, the band reached out to Vicky in regards to the unreleased recordings at the center of these legal disputes. Both parties supposedly reached an agreement where the tracks would be made into a Soundgarden project, given Vicky’s stipulation that the band used one of Cornell’s “trusted producers” and kept her privy to possible marketing strategies. Vicky claimed that the band broke these agreed-upon confines, forcing her to retain sole ownership of the recordings. Ever since then, the fight over the seven unheard vocal tracks has erupted in the public eye as attorneys for both parties get rich off of retainers.
[H/T Rolling Stone]