Artists Remember Chris Cornell
Grunge icon Chris Cornell, 52, passed away of apparent suicide on May 17, 2017, leaving behind an impressive legacy and legions of heartbroken fans. The Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman had just played a show at Fox Theater in Detroit on Wednesday night.
To honor Cornell’s legacy, we reached out to a cross-section of musician fans who reflected on the artist below. This post will be updated as more remembrances come in.
Corey Taylor (Slipknot)
Chris Cornell was one of my favorite songwriters, and he was one of the reasons I never let genres get in the way of what I wanted to write. From ‘Seasons’ to ‘Cochise’, he wrote what HE WANTED TO WRITE. Damn the consequences. As a young writer, that was so damn inspiring. I guess I’ve never given him enough credit until now. Don’t make that mistake. Listen to Cornell’s music and tell people about what it says to you.
Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!)
It’s OK if no one believes me ,but I was writing about Chris Cornell passing away in my journal this morning and my guitar, which was laying on a carpet across the room, strummed a chord on its own. Extremely saddened by the loss.
Jesse Leach (Killswitch Engage)
The sheer power of the voice, the stage presence and the man himself were interwoven into the words he sang. Chris Cornell was an inspiration of mine from a young age. His voice was unmistakable the moment you heard it. However, for me as a writer, it was his lyrics that really impacted me. He had the ability to write these words you could sing along to, yet, if you were to pause and really pay attention, there were so many deep poetic things being said.
A verse that has been stuck in my head since hearing of his passing is, ‘Whomsoever I’ve cured I’ve sickened now/Whomsoever I’ve cradled I’ve put you down/I’m a searchlight soul they say but I can’t see it on the night/I’m only faking when I get it right/Cause I fell on black days/How would I know that this could be my fate?”
Even though Chris never really revealed what his lyrics were about, I always felt a connection to them. To me that line is so relatable and so devastating. He was a true artist that allowed emotion to come through in his performances. Seeing him live, you could hear it in his voice, even when he had his bad days there was a vulnerability and a truth that rang through him.
He will continue to inspire me as a writer and a vocalist. There has never been a voice like his sonically and topically, and I don’t think there ever will be. He had a special ability and a way about him as an artist. I consider him to be a big part of my youth and a reason to want to sing as opposed to just yelling and growling. The man was and is a legend in my eyes.
Jason Narducy (Split Single, Bob Mould Band, Superchunk)
I saw a ferocious band twenty-five years ago at The Riviera in Chicago. They closed the show with “Slaves & Bulldozers.” It’s an impossible song to sing but that was not a problem for Chris. A lot of singers put the really difficult songs at the beginning or middle of a show so they have the vocal strength to pull it off. Last night in Detroit, that same band closed the show with “Slaves & Bulldozers.” Black day today.
Chris Cornell had such a big rare voice. Like Robert Plant or Roy Orbison. He just had that sound that nobody else had. When I was in high school, I would go see him play at Roseland or the Arts Center and just be floored that this long-haired grunge dude could be on Broadway if he wanted to.
His songwriting had a loneliness that I related to. I also connected with his relentless need to make new stuff. Even if I didn’t like some of his work, I still respected him for constantly creating.
The news of his passing is shocking and deeply saddens me. As someone who also struggles with depression and anxiety, this really hits home. It’s something that lives in you and you have to be really vigilant about it. You can get help and you can be happy. It breaks my heart that Chris couldn’t see his way out of this one and get help.
If it weren’t for Chris Cornell, this band may not have known each other. Soundgarden was a staple in our music collections. It would be nearly impossible to count up all the times we collectively replayed Soundgarden as teens or all the lyrics we have inadvertently memorized. His vocals are burned into all of our brains. Chris Cornell was one of the pillars of the Grunge Era, one of the musical periods that inspired us to play. Beyond that, he was a unique and forceful talent whose voice and vision carried over to numerous projects and genres. He survived the 27 Club to continue producing up until his last night, and it’s a shame we won’t hear more from him from here on out. Our hearts are definitely heavy today, not only for the loss of an icon, but imagining the terrible loss to his family of a father and a husband.
Victoria Ruiz (Downtown Boys)
To be honest, it’s very hard as a musician to represent the prism of power and experiences that Chris did. He was clearly beloved by the those who got to work with him and put down many of the bricks on the road that musicians will traverse forever more. It’s beautiful that he spent his last night playing a show. My heart goes out to his friends and family. As Tom Morello put it, he had ‘unbridled rock power,’ and his ‘beautiful voice and beautiful self’ will be with people forever.
Jonah Bayer (United Nations)
I saw Soundgarden in 1994 on the Superunknown tour. It was at an outdoor venue in Cleveland and Tad opened. I remember that I was only fourteen years old and labored for months before deciding if I should see this show or Tool and I think I made the right decision. I don’t remember much from the show aside from the fact that I got dropped on my head during “Black Hole Sun” and probably have some type of permanent brain damage. But I do recall being blown away by how heavy the band sounded live and the way Cornell’s vocals perfectly complimented Kim Thayil’s detuned riffing.
Over two decades later, I still return to Superunknown pretty regularly, and while a lot of the albums from that era sound a little goofy or dated these days, I feel like that album and Badmotorfinger both stand up not only as groundbreaking albums but as albums that have an alchemy about them that hasn’t really been recreated since. Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Scott Weiland and now Chris Cornell were all taken from us way too early, but hopefully there is a designated area for grunge heroes in heaven and Cornell is resting in peace there now the same way he lived: with passion, purpose and a set of pipes that were frankly unparalleled.
Dan Molad (CHIMNEY)
I grew up on grunge. Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, STP, Soundgarden and Nirvana. Soundgarden was one of a handful of bands that introduced me to complex harmony and rhythm in rock music. Being able to connect with millions of listeners is a feat in itself, let alone to do it while crafting sophisticated angular songs like ‘Spoonman,’ ‘Rusty Cage’ and ‘Black Hole Sun.’
We’ve lost too many talented people from that era. I am sure that Chris’ pain, like with many others, was something that fueled his art. It’s always a fine line between accessing that pain to help you create and letting it take over. Striking that balance is never easy. It’s amazing how long his work has resonated with so many people. Thankfully we have the gift of his records to live on in his memory.
Hearing of another tragic loss, the death of Chris Cornell, a truly gifted singer and musician, what can we learn? When someone has a talent that sets them apart from others, and they live with an inner dialogue that in isolation festers with the potential loneliness of touring, do we help them by making them into Gods? People need humanity, not followers. Everyone gets lost sometimes and without tools to challenge negative voices from within, it’s like getting cornered by a bully in a dark alley. Chris and his family deserve our compassion, not the intrusion of making another tragedy into a mythic headline we can’t get enough of. Pay it forward. Less autographs and more kindness might save a life.
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