I woke up the morning of May 17th and grabbed my phone to turn off the alarm. Before I set it down, I noticed I had quite a few messages waiting for me, more than normal. And as I read them, I slowly lowered the screen, realizing this wasn’t some cruel joke.
When celebrities pass away, many overdramatize their effect. These are people in most cases we have never met, and shouldn’t really have any truly emotional connection to. Plus, there are real tragedies out there, why focus on some pampered artist who lived a charmed life? I get it.
But every once in a while, we are all faced with the death of someone that crossed all those lines. Someone who’s passing makes us question our own mortality. I never knew Chris Cornell, never met him, never so much as exchanged a text message with the guy. But man, at times it seemed like he knew me all too well.
My first real girlfriend introduced me to Cornell through Soundgarden, specifically the Badmotorfinger album. Hearing Kim Thayil’s ultra-crunchy signature riff on “Outshined” was enough to make me fall in love, but Cornell’s growl/scream sent me over the edge. After digging in and finding Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love, a massive part of my youth soundtrack had been set. “Grunge” music was my generation, and although Alice in Chains was my favorite band, Cornell was my favorite artist of the genre.
Temple of the Dog, a tribute to Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone, was brilliant from cover to cover. Its most recognizable track, “Hunger Strike”, featured Cornell and San Diego newcomer Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. Consider- Vedder is one of the greatest vocalists of his time, but hearing them both trade lines in that song, he never had a chance. Cornell was a man amongst boys.
Chris Cornell would go on to have a successful run with Audioslave, basically a Zach de la Rocha-less Rage Against the Machine, but where he really caught me was in the solo work. Euphoria Morning was a much more slowed down Cornell, with tracks like “Cant Change Me” and “Preaching the End of the World” showing us that he had a much different side to him. But it was actually his soundtrack work where two of his best songs came from: “Seasons”, off the Singles soundtrack, and “Sunshower”, from the movie Great Expectations.
I never expected him to be gone so soon, but it tragically seems all too familiar for many bands of that time. Wood, Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain, Scott Weiland, and now Cornell, amongst others. Is it a curse? Perhaps. But we were all blessed to have those guys for even a short time.
My top 5 Cornell tracks, in no particular order:
Audioslave: Doesn’t Remind Me
Cause it doesn’t remind me of anything
Cause it doesn’t remind me of anything
Hearing Cornell harmonizing over himself in the second verse is catchy as hell. The songs progresses into a rocker during the chorus, but to me the meat and potatoes are in the verse.
Chris Cornell: Seasons
Sleeping with a full moon blanket
Sand and feathers for my head
Dreams have never been the answer
And dreams have never made my bed
The movie Singles was unquestionable the quintessential “grunge” movie. Hitting early in the genre, there were cameos galore, and Cameron Crowe doing what he does best. So many great songs in there, including Soundgarden’s “Birth Ritual”, perhaps Thayil’s best work outside of “Outshined”. But “Seasons” was the belle of the ball here, an early glimpse of Cornell’s talent that went way beyond guttural screams.
Chris Cornell: Sunshower
Crawl like ivy up my spine
Through my nerves and into my eyes
Cuts like anguish
Or recollections of better days gone by
Off the Great Expectations soundtrack, this one inexplicably gets lost. It shouldn’t.
This is Cornell’s heartbreaking wail at its best, simultaneously alternating between breathy and belting, you can flat out feel the emotion through the speakers. And man can he write a lyric.
Chris Cornell: Nothing Compares 2 U (Sinead O’Connor cover)
While not a Cornell song, I included this for a reason. His ability to take any song and make it his own was absolutely remarkable. You’ve all heard his stunning cover of “Billy Jean”, but on Sirius XM’s Lithium- he took the O’Connor classic and hit a grand slam. This was an extremely restrained version of him, complete with string accompaniment in the background. And he nailed it. Absolutely nailed it.
Chris Cornell: Preaching The End of the World
I’m 24, and I’ve got everything to live for,
but I know now, that it wasn’t meant to be.
Cause all has been lost and,
all has been won,
and there’s nothing left for us to save.
A track off of his “Euphoria Morning” solo debut, another song lost in the shuffle. Yet, if there was one song I would want you to take the time and listen to, this would be it. If there was one song that encompassed the Creative Picasso that was Chris Cornell, this was it. So layered, so broad, and showcases his three octave talent.
This was always one of my favorite Cornell tracks, but now for obvious reasons I can’t seem to get it out of my head.
Rest in peace Chris. And thanks for the music you gave me and so many. You will not be forgotten.