When I woke up Thursday morning to the news that Chris Cornell had died, I was stunned. There was no warning, no news preceding it of drug problems, mental health issues, or even general health issues. There was barely any news about Chris or Soundgarden at all. So to wake up to the news that a 52 year old who I had admired and been inspired by for years had died was crushing. I woke up, checked my phone, and started crying.
Chris Cornell is such a name in my life, with his vocal work being an essential part of my childhood and of my current teenage years. His work with Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave soundtracked those years for me. Even his shoutout in “Vans Song” by the Suicide Machines was a part of it.
Chris was really there for me at a time when I needed it. It came sophomore year at a point when I was lost musically, when writing music seemed impossible and my inability to do so depressed me to no end. When I discovered Temple of the Dog during that April Break, I really really needed it. Those two hits “Hunger Strike” and “Say Hello to Heaven” hit me when I needed them, they provided emotional release.
Soundgarden hit me that summer. I found a CD of “Superunknown” at the local library and didn’t think much of it when I threw it in the CD player. From the first track I knew I’d found something new. It was heavier than anything I’d ever heard at that point, with drop and down tunings and riffs for fucking days. Despite the progressive leanings of the band their songs remained catchy and would get stuck in my head. While I still can’t wrap my head around the ridiculous time signature changes they use, the warped progressive and alternative metal they put out influenced me in both subtle and blatant ways. I never would have figured out that some of my favorite tracks by them were in 15/8 or continuously shifted between 7/4 and 4/4. Tracks like “4th of July” “The Day I Tried to Live” and especially “Limo Wreck” defined my summer, it was music for oppressively hot weather. Cornell’s four octave vocal range was hypnotizing to me, able to hit those classic rock high notes while remaining grunge and hip. He’s part of why I eventually started to sing rather than shout/yell. Soundgarden is why I started writing alternative metal influenced music.
While many will criticize this band as being overly masculine, and maybe that’s true, if anything Soundgarden redefined masculinity for me. Their lyrics are delivered with a combination of aggression and and vulnerability that I really connected with and that shaped who I am. Their music makes me feel confident without making me feel like an asshole.
Chris shaped both the music I write and who I am as a person, and while I can’t pretend I knew him at all, I feel like I did because I knew his art. Chris mattered so much to so many people and I want to let anyone reading this that you matter too and that there are people in your life who love and support you.
Rest in Power Chris Cornell