Waking up to the news that Chris Cornell is no longer with us was shattering. I consider him the most powerful rock singer of his generation — someone who was at the forefront of the grunge era but could also hit the highest octaves and write numerous beautiful songs.
This loss as much as any other suffered in the past few years in music hits hard for me personally. Growing up with two older brothers, I was very much a fan of Soundgarden and the ’90s grunge movement. I remember listening to Superunknown and Down On the Upside religiously in the living room as a kid with headphones plugged into the receiver as I tried learning all the words.
As a kid, I vividly remember going camping with my family and walking by myself with Superunknown on cassette in one of my brother’s Walkman. I tripped and fell and the cassette comically flew out of the Walkman and off the edge of a cliff, gone forever, like I was in some sort of cartoon. I remember playing Road Rash for the short-lived 3DO video gaming system, and Soundgarden’s “Kickstand” was one of the songs featured in the game. This was one of my earliest memories linking video games to real actual music instead of the 8-bit stuff of my youth.
This past January, I got to see Audioslave reform for one night only and play what was called the Anti-Inauguration Ball. I got to go to this with my roommates and a few other friends at the intimate Teragram Ballroom. They only played three songs, but damn if that didn’t fucking rock my world. Jumping into the mosh when the epic guitar intro of “Cochise” exploded, just before Cornell jumped on stage and his vocals rang throughout the tiny theater. I’ll always hold that memory close.
My introduction to experiencing the Hollywood Bowl was seeing Soundgarden open up for Nine Inch Nails. What a helluva double-bill. That was the first time I got to hear Chris Cornell’s wonderful voice live.
The Cornell solo song “Wave Goodbye” got me through one of the hardest times of my life, when my best friend passed away unexpectedly in my early twenties. That song and the Temple of the Dog track “Say Hello 2 Heaven”, those were big during that dark time. As much as Cornell was maybe the best screamer in rock, he also had the talent to sign as beautifully as anyone.
Here’s a Spotify playlist I put together of my favorite Chris Cornell-related songs. I’m hoping to hear some people pay tribute when I’m at Hangout Fest this weekend. He certainly deserves it.