Chris Cornell's Daughter, Toni, Grew Up To Be A Major Talent Like Her Dad

It's no secret that the magic of autotune and other studio tricks can make almost anyone sound like they have some serious talent, but strip away all the computer-generated wizardry to separate out just some vocal tracks, and it quickly becomes clear just who has the real talent. And Chris Cornell? He had it. His four-octave vocal range was something of a rarity, and Inverse says that it was shared by only a handful of stars, including Roy Orbison, Cyndi Lauper, and Beyonce. That's wildly impressive, of course, but Cornell was much more than just an incredible voice.

When news of his death at the age of 52 broke (via Rolling Stone), tributes poured in. One — from none other than Elton John — perhaps summed it up best: "Shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Chris Cornell. A great singer, songwriter, and the loveliest man."

Cornell was survived by his wife, Vicky, and three children: Son Christopher, and daughters Lily and Toni. While his family has remained active in preserving, promoting, and protecting his legacy, it's daughter Toni who is following in his footsteps as not only a singer and songwriter but an activist. When Vicky shared a sneakily-snapped photo of Toni and Chris working on songs together (via Instagram), commenters were hopeful that they were going to be following in their famous father's footsteps. Good news!

Chris Cornell encouraged his children's musical talent

While it might be possible to imagine that the life of a musician — touring, performing, recording, and working all the long hours that go along with that — might end up putting a serious dent in family time, that wasn't the case with Cornell and his children. In a particularly endearing 2006 interview (via People), he explained that while his childhood had been one that he spent mostly on his own, he'd finally found his crowd. "I find now that ... they're my best friends," he said. "And I still find a certain part of the adult world alienating, so I'd rather just hang out with my kids."

He also spoke candidly about exposing his children to different countries, cultures, experiences, and, of course, music. In a 2015 interview, he commented on how he saw an innate talent in them — but added that no matter what they decided they wanted to do with their lives, they would always have his full support. "...they're their own people, and I think easily they could do something musical, or they could do something in acting or film or other types of the arts, and I would fully support it."

And it wasn't all about the music: Cornell had also said that they had helped inspire his philanthropic work. Becoming a father had changed his outlook, and not only did he say that he was well aware of how fortunate he was to be in a position to provide for his family, it made him want to reach out and help the world's most vulnerable children.

They truly shared a special connection

On her first Father's Day without him, Toni Cornell posted a moving tribute to him on his Facebook page. She wrote (in part): "Let me start by saying how much I love you and how much you mean to me. You are my idol, someone I've always looked up to. You were always there for me. ... Whenever I cry or feel like there's no way I can go on, I hear your voice, 'Don't sit worrying peanut. Worry is a waste of time, I'm ok.'"

She touched on memories that showed the depth of their connection, from the times he sat up with her when she was sick, to introducing her to his favorite songs — the songs that became their favorites. She wrote: "Our special connection was always the arts. ... Who's going to introduce me to movies like "Purple Rain" and songs like "The Beautiful Ones" now? I'm hoping I will find some because you trained me so well."

In 2021, the then 16-year-old Toni Cornell acknowledged the day she lost her father by simply posting a photo on her Instagram, showing them together from years prior. In the same year, she paid musical tribute to him, too, by recording "Hunger Strike" as a fundraiser for COVID relief. She wrote (via People) that the recording was "in tribute to my dad who would have been the first to do everything he could to help."

His social media is filled with father-daughter duets

There's an old saying that practice makes perfect, but sometimes, people have the good fortune to be born with an innate talent. Toni Cornell's innate musical ability seems to have been passed down from her father, and if there are any doubts about her ability — and her love for music — there's plenty of evidence of it on not only her social media but his.

Videos posted for her birthday — like the one shared in 2021 — show the progression of not just her singing, but them singing together. Starting with a touching moment where he sings "You Are My Sunshine" to his infant daughter all the way up to appearing on stage and singing together before an audience, it's clear that singing together wasn't just a career, it was the stuff of home movies, quiet afternoons, and the kind of father-daughter moments that are treasured for a lifetime. Music has been something they've shared from the very first day they met, and she's gone on to embrace the legacy being passed down to her. 

His children, first and foremost

In 2021, Vicky Cornell (center) spoke with Fatherly about some heavy stuff. With love and family inevitably came grief and loss, and that can bring it into sharp focus just how fleeting memories can be. She shared letters with them, and she also shared exactly how she and their children were making sure that they held onto him every day — just as he had held onto them while he was alive.

She talked about how they didn't subscribe to anything remotely like what would be considered a normal, typical life. They didn't just travel all over the world, but they took the kids along with them — and up on stage. They were a part of the culture, the experience, and the life: "Our kids were so much a part of our working lives — they really got such a unique experience both at home and at work, and that really had an impact on their lives in such a positive way," she shared.

It's no wonder, then, that both Toni and Christopher (left) are following in their father's footsteps — and perhaps best of all, she confirmed that he would have been so, so there for it. "I know Chris would be so proud of the young adults they are turning into. They are both so much like him in different ways — I see him in them every single day."

Her performance of Hallelujah was a moving tribute

The news of Chris Cornell's death broke via the Associated Press on May 18, 2017. It was 3:30 am when his representative asked for privacy and understanding around the sudden and heartbreaking news, and while no amount of time can prepare a person for such a catastrophic loss, they had no time.

The loss of a beloved parent is one of the most devastating things that a person has to face in life, and Toni Cornell was just 12 years old when she lost her father. And that makes it even more admirable that just a few months later, she appeared on "Good Morning America" for a performance that ended without a dry eye in sight.

At Cornell's funeral, Linkin Park's Chester Bennington performed a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" — a tear-jerker at the best of times. Bennington would die by suicide in July — just a few months later — and in Toni Cornell's "GMA" appearance, she and OneRepublic performed the song again, dedicating it to both Chris Cornell and Bennington. She released a brief statement along with the performance, saying (via Rolling Stone): "It's an honor to perform this for my dad and Chester and to sing for them."

She's performed Nothing Compares 2 U several times

Prince wrote it, Sinead O'Connor originally sang it, and when Chris Cornell recorded his version in 2015, it was a massive hit. According to Rolling Stone, he performed "Nothing Compares 2 U" more than a hundred times, and in 2018, Toni Cornell posted a new version of the song for Father's Day in 2018.

It was a duet, and along with the video, she wrote, "You believed in me when I didn't. I miss your love everyday. Recording this song with you was a special and amazing experience I wish I could repeat 100 times over and I know you would too."

That hasn't been the only time she's covered the song that earned her father a posthumous Grammy nomination, either. (Rolling Stone notes that the nomination was for Best Rock Performance, and the album it was on — the posthumously-released "No One Sings Like You Anymore, Vol. 1" — earned him another nomination, for Best Rock Album.) In 2022, she performed the song live on "The Late Late Show," receiving some well-earned accolades for the moving tribute to her father.

She was a part of Lolla2020's virtual festival

It's no secret that the COVD pandemic ruined a shocking amount of things, but there's another old saying: Where there's a will, there's a way. Rolling Stone says that Lollapalooza 2020 was officially canceled in June, about two months before it was scheduled. It was a time when everyone needed something to look forward to, and fortunately, we're living in the digital age. There were immediate plans made to move the festival into the digital world, and when the full line-up was announced later, it was wildly impressive. It included big names like Paul McCartney and Chance the Rapper, live interviews that would be conducted by Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, and past performances — by groups like Metallica and Lorde — would also be broadcast. Among those streaming live? Toni Cornell.

For her inspiration, she headed right back to her father's roots in Seattle, and chose to cover Pearl Jam's "Black." Rolling Stone lauded her "faithful, acoustic rendition of the "Ten" classic," while Billboard observed, "The rockstar gene clearly runs deep in her body, as she flawlessly belted out a cover of Pearl Jam's 1991 hit, 'Black.'" 

She did, of course, dedicate the song to her father, showing that no matter how long he's been gone, he's definitely not forgotten. 

She's released a single produced by her father

Performing songs is just one layer of talent, so let's look at another. Songwriting Magazine called Chris Cornell one of the most popular and most successful songwriters of his generation. His daughter is following in his footsteps there, too. In 2019, Variety reported that she had released her first single. Toni Cornell was 15 years old at the time of the release, and it was a song that she had written when she was 12. It's heavy stuff for anyone, much less a teenager, and the song — called "Far Away Places" — was featured in a film about a boy who leaves his Los Angeles to return to Tahiti, where his family was originally from. It's there that he finds out one of his cousins is the victim of continuing abuse at the hands of a local.

The song, says Rolling Stone, is poignant for another reason: Toni recorded it in her father's studio, just three months before he died. In addition to being used in the film — which was directed by 17-year-old Tatiana Shanks, and debuted at a series of international film festivals — "Far Away Places" is also available as a digital download, with all the proceeds going to the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

She has continued his work with refugees

Chris Cornell's last music video was more than just a video — it was an incredibly meaningful project called "The Promise." At the time they were working on it, of course, Rolling Stone says that no one knew it was going to be his last. Still, it was a fitting tribute. Cornell told Rolling Stone that the video was inspired by documentaries he'd seen about refugees and what they would take as they fled their homes. Among the most important things were photographs, and it stuck with him. Proceeds to the song were donated to the International Rescue Committee, and after his death, LoudWire reported on a video filmed by stars — including Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Elton John, Cher, Christian Bale, and Oscar Isaac — pledging to keep up his charity work with the refugee crisis.

Daughter Toni Cornell has also continued that work, writing: "My father, Chris Cornell, taught me to help those that are less fortunate and to speak for those who do not have a voice. I am grateful to have visited the refugee camps with him and International Rescue Committee."

Not only did she donate all the proceeds from the sale of their "Nothing Compares 2 U" to the IRC, but in 2022, she was named as an official IRC Ambassador. The youngest ambassador ever named, she spoke before the Emergency Watchlist on the importance of inspiring the younger generations to make a difference in issues like refugee and humanitarian concerns, as well as in climate change, women's rights, and education.

She's also continuing to campaign against the stigma around addiction

In 2018, Chris Cornell's widow, Vicky, spoke openly about his substance abuse issues and the impact she believed it had on his suicide. She said that while he had been sober since 2002 and had gotten treatment for an addiction to OxyContin, his behavior had changed after being given prescription painkillers to treat a shoulder injury. She said (via Variety), "People think addiction is a choice and it's not. It's in all of our houses, it has no boundaries, and I think if there was less stigma around it more people would speak up."

Their daughter took her words to heart, and in addition to her work with Childhaven and Phoenix House (via the Chris & Vicky Cornell Foundation), she has also launched her own initiative, called the Stop the Stigma Campaign. She wrote: "My dad's death was completely preventable. We need to stop the stigma that does not allow us to see that this is a disease and a mental health disorder, not a moral flaw. The former perspective saves lives, the latter ends them."

The campaign was in partnership with the Addiction Policy Forum, and provided resources that included information on how addiction changes the brain, and phone numbers for free and confidential support for either those struggling with addiction, or for friends and family members concerned about someone they love.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The estate released an original version of Only These Words for her

Just a few months before his death, Chris Cornell did an interview with Digital Spy. He was talking about the album "Higher Truth," and essentially said that of all the work he'd done, this was the one that was closest to his heart. He took the time to explain the story behind "Only These Words," and when looking at his explanation in the context of his cherished daughter, it's even more heartbreaking. "The idea is it's a child having a dream, and the dreamworld life is sort-of perfect. It's a baby born as a royal or a princess into this amazing world, then immediately being jerked out of that when they wake up to a reality which isn't that, and then grasping onto what part of their life could be that."

In 2020 — for Toni Cornell's 16th birthday — her mother shared a previously unreleased version of the song on his Instagram. "He is always with you," Vicky wrote.

It was on October 10 of the same year that Toni Cornell launched her Stop the Stigma campaign, and spoke about it — and the never-ending, never-healing grief that she was still experiencing — on Good Morning America. "People think three years makes it easier, but it didn't for me," she said honestly. "It takes a heavy toll on your heart and mind, so know that you aren't alone. And don't worry about time. Keep sharing and talking."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.