"Nobody saw this coming, his band mates didn't see this coming. It's totally out of character for the Chris that I've known and worked with for the last 10 years," his longtime manager, Ron Laffitte, told CNN ahead of Cornell's private funeral on Friday in Los Angeles. "It's incredibly bizarre. I have to think that something threw him off the tracks ... he must have been out of his right mind."
Laffitte said he spoke to Cornell on a daily basis and on the afternoon of his death, they were discussing plans for him to perform at the 2017 Global Citizens Music Festival this September in New York. He sounded upbeat when he talked about plans for the future, according to Laffitte.
"He was just really excited about this specific idea that we were going to do. He said, 'We aren't just going to make pop history with this one, brother. We are going to make real history,'" Laffitte said on Thursday. "I would say the last couple of months, he was as optimistic and happy as I can ever recall him ... He was so excited about all these things and a new record we were going to put out in the fall."
Cornell's wife, Vicky, said in a statement
shortly after her husband's death that she spoke to him on the phone after his concert in Detroit. She said she was alarmed to hear that he had taken an "extra Ativan or two."
Cornell, an admitted former drug addict, was prescribed the drug for anxiety, according to his family.
On May 18, the 52-year-old singer was found unresponsive on his bathroom floor at the MGM Grand Hotel. The medical examiner's office later ruled that the cause of death was "suicide by hanging."
The toxicology results have not yet been released.
"Very often times people who are in recovery have a relapse or a slip," Laffitte said. "I think unfortunately what so often happens when a recovering addict has a slip is they return to a level where they left off as opposed to easing their way back in."
Dr. Eric Esrailian, Cornell's longtime friend, who featured the singer's last recorded song "The Promise" in his film of the same name, told CNN that he firmly believes Cornell's death was not premeditated.
"If [Cornell] was aware of what he was doing I don't think Chris would ever do this to his family," he said. "The Chris I know would never do this to his family ... I completely don't believe he had this planned out."
Cornell's final song at the Detroit concert was a cover of Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying,"
which some fans thought foreshadowed his death. With lyrics like, "In my time of dying, I want nobody to mourn/All I want for you to do is take my body home," it's not hard to see why some would think that suicide was on Cornell's mind, but Laffitte said that is simply not the case.
"They did that [song] and a number of Led Zeppelin covers all the time and that had nothing to do with [his death]," he said. "I don't believe he was foreshadowing his death, I believe he was playing a Led Zeppelin song that he'd played many times before."
Esrailian, who was one of the speakers at Cornell's funeral at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, said he just hopes fans know how fiercely devoted he was to his family and three children.
"He always was focused on his children and his wife," he said. "Chris was the center of [Vicky's] world and the world of her children. Everything revolved around Chris because he was such a great, fun, funny person."
Brad Pitt, Dave Grohl, Christian Bale, Courtney Love, Gavin Rossdale, James Franco, Pharrell, Billy Idol, Dave Navarro and Cornell's Soundgarden bandmates, Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron, were among those in attendance at the funeral.
Laffitte, who said he hasn't been able to listen to Cornell's music or watch his final performance this week because it's "been too hard" for him, echoed Esrailian's sentiments.
"[Chris] would want to be remembered as a loving husband and father and be remembered as a songwriter and a singer,' he said. "Very often times it was overlooked that he was one of the greatest songwriters arguable of all time and he would like to be remembered as songwriter first before a singer."