The widow of famed rock musician Chris Cornell has sued his former Soundgarden bandmates and their business manager for allegedly holding onto thousands of dollars in royalties owed to her husband, who died in 2017, court papers show.
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Vicky Cornell sued her late husband’s bandmates – Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd – as well as Soundgarden’s business manager, Rit Venerus, in federal court alleging they are withholding the royalties owed to Cornell as a way to “strong-arm” his estate into handing over seven of his coveted recordings.
But Vicky, who has two children with the late musician, claims she had initially offered to them the audio tracks before their relationship soured, the lawsuit states.
“The disputed seven audio recordings were solely authored by Chris; contain Chris’ own vocal tracks; and were bequeathed to Chris’ Estate for the benefit of his widow … and their minor children,” court papers show.
They were created in Cornell's Florida home studio, where he sometimes worked on projects separate from Soundgarden.
“[D]espite numerous attempts to work with the band on the release of Chris’ sound recordings, the band has refused to honor Chris’ legacy and wishes,” the lawsuit states. "Instead, they are continuing to coerce Vicky by egregiously withholding monies due to her and Chris’ children.”
Neither Venerus nor an attorney for Soundgarden immediately responded to FOX Business’ requests for comment.
Vicky Cornell posted a photograph of her family to Instagram, with a captain that read, in part: "I will not be bullied or shamed into silence."
“The band members’ tortious conduct towards Chris’ family is consistent with their animus towards Chris, displayed when they failed to so much as turn around their tour bus upon learning of Chris’ death; failed to check in with Chris’s grieving family; and failed to so much as attempt to quell the online threats against Chris’ children,” the complaint further alleges.
Cornell alleges in the complaint she had offered to provide the band with the recordings after her husband’s death, but also required that they respect Chris Cornell’s wishes by using “his trusted producer” and keeping her involved in the marketing strategy for the album.
“The band refused, however, on the absurd contention that the recordings are somehow the sole property of their purported partnership and that they (despite not creating the sound recordings) are somehow entitled to unilaterally dictate how the recordings should be exploited,” the lawsuit states.
The band members allegedly made false statements regarding the ordeal, with the alleged intention of stirring stalkers online and in real life, according to the court papers.
In July, Thayil allegedly claimed:
“We’ve asked nicely, we’ve suggested that this will benefit all parties, if the band could just have these files, and we could finish the songs we were working on. But there seems to be some confusion amongst various parties as to what that would entail and how that works, and who that would benefit. And it’s been tiring, you know. And we can’t move on until some future date when someone realizes the value of allowing the creative partners to have access to the material.”
Thayil could not immediately be reached for comment.
But the lawsuit states Chris Cornell was the only person “working on” the recordings.
The public attention and “false media attention” put the Cornell family in danger, court papers state, referencing hateful messages “directed towards Chris’ children” and the family’s pre-existing need for FBI protection.
Months later, attorneys for the band sent a letter to the executors of his estate, allegedly demanding they hand over the unreleased sound recordings. The letter further stated the recordings belong to the band partnership and Vicky Cornell “simply has no ownership rights.”
“Through this action,” the lawsuit states. “Vicky seeks to vindicate her late-husband’s rights in the sound recordings that he created, to recover the substantial sums of money and personal property that are being unlawfully withheld by Venerus and the band, and to emphatically answer the lyrical question her husband raised about his former bandmates, 'how much more can they get?'”