Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and music fans all around the world are wearing that crown today, as we honor the life of one of music’s most dynamic voices.
Chris Cornell is, was, and will always be a profound musician that lived through one of the most incredible periods of music history, whether when he came up with Temple of the Dog, broke through with Soundgarden, broke through the glass ceilings with his solo career, resurrected himself through Audioslave, or, most importantly, just lived through music, as many of us already do today.
Full disclosure: I’m too young to know what it was like, in real time, to understand the true impact of Cornell’s legacy coming out of Seattle. However, I know the impact of Cornell’s music on my life is as remarkable and incredible as it is for my friends and family that loved him dearly.
I remember the first time I was exposed to Soundgarden was when their song “Kickstand” was featured on the menu of the motorcycle-racing PC desktop game Road Rash. That spurred a huge interest in the Black Hole Sun album as well as Badmotorfinger as I couldn’t go a day without listening to “Rusty Cage.” That song ALWAYS got me fired up.
You can’t think of Chris Cornell and forget about how he and Eddie Vedder and others formed Temple of the Dog back in the early 90s in the middle of Soundgarden's great career. A truly raw sound coming out of the Pacific Northwest with hits including “Hunger Strike,” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven.”
Once you delve into the genius that was Soundgarden, you understand that even their early studio albums were just as good as the highly revered platinum albums. Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love displayed such an epic range of badass-ery and such skilled musicianship that you couldn’t turn off the radio or CD or cassette tape.
My college girlfriend got me into Superunknown and I must’ve listened to that record on loop a dozen times when I first heard it. It was raw; it was polished; it was something like I hadn’t heard even in the midst of Pearl Jam’s Ten, Nirvana’s Nevermind, and even Alice in Chains’ Dirt. “Fell on Black Days,” “Spoonman,” “Black Hole Sun,” and even the title track were enough to hold you over for months on end.
I’d be remiss (even though I still haven’t heard the soundtrack to, or seen the movie, Singles) the love that music fans have for “Birth Ritual.” I think that’s gotta be on my short list.
When I was in high school and college, and found out that Audioslave had formed with members of Rage Against the Machine, I dove headfirst and couldn’t have enjoyed an album of epic proportions more. “Like A Stone,” “Cochise,” and “Show Me How to Live” were three tracks that really gauged my interest in the band.
The only time I got to see Chris Cornell in concert was shortly after his 50th birthday in 2014, and he reunited with Soundgarden to open for Nine Inch Nails. That display of raw power and intensity felt like it had never left.
I never fully appreciated how awesome this show was when it was completed. I got to see one of the greatest musicians of the past 30 years and it never really dawned on me the impact he had on my life until after the fact.
What I think cannot be lost, like with any great musician, is how well they cover some of our favorite songs, as well as in collaborating with others. Two examples that have the greatest impact on me: I’ve loved Zac Brown Band for the past 5 years or so, and when I found out Cornell was featured on a track with them, I couldn’t wait.
Also, when he performed at The Forum in Inglewood in 2015 for KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas, he threw in an additional song all by himself in covering John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
This song gave me chills, tears and rocked me to my very core.
Do yourself a favor, take a chunk out of your weekend (if not all of it), and listen to as much music that Chris Cornell recorded over the years, including his solo stuff. You may have a heavy heart; you might cry, like me; you might pump your fists in either frustration or excitement. One thing is for damn sure: Chris Cornell is on the Mt. Rushmore of musicians/singers/performers of the last 25-30 years.
Rest in everlasting peace, Chris. You will be missed, but hell will freeze over before you’re forgotten.