So sad to hear of Chris Cornell’s sudden passing recently. I have to say that the news really did knock me sideways which I think was a combination of his death being so unexpected, my love for the music he was such an integral part of with Soundgarden and also that this was a man of a similar age to me who I admired enormously.
Of all those great bands that emerged from the Pacific Northwest in the mid-to-late ‘eighties, Soundgarden have always been one of my absolute favourites. Their music is edgy, thunderously heavy, trippy and full of great hooks, with intelligent and often confrontational lyrics (mainly written by Cornell) and imagery. There is a restlessness about them too, with a great willingness to push boundaries and experiment. Then there is that voice. There is something of great classic rock vocalists like Robert Plant, Roger Daltry and maybe even Ronnie James Dio in his style, but the power and conviction with which Cornell sang suited the angst and punk-edged aggression of Soundgarden’s music perfectly. As he was later to prove, his voice was also equally effective and emotive when the guitars were turned way down.
Each Soundgarden album has its own unique charm, from the ragged glory of early records ‘Ultramega OK’ and ‘Louder than Love’ through to the sleek, dark psychedelia of the multi-platinum ‘Superunknown’ and the looser, more experimental ‘Down on the Upside’. Their reunion album ‘King Animal’, released a full sixteen years after ‘Down on the Upside’, sits comfortably alongside the rest of the catalogue. But for me it is 1991’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ that I always find myself coming back to. It was the first Soundgarden album I ever bought; encouraged and intrigued by a review, I had to ask my good friend Bob in Adelaide to buy and post me the CD due to the fact that I was living in Katherine in the Northern Territory at the time. Fair to say I wasn’t disappointed and I was quickly consumed by the off-kilter tempo shifts, weird guitar tones not to mention the innate aggression and power of the music and lyrics. And of course those amazing vocals.
Cornell also achieved significant success as a solo artist and of course with Audioslave. He was obviously a man of great musical and song-writing talent, but also a man of great heart, having created in recent years a foundation with his wife to help children facing challenges, including homelessness, poverty, and neglect.
There still seems to be doubts about whether Cornell really wanted to claim his own life, or whether his state of mind was influenced or altered by the medication he apparently took that night. Regardless, it is a tragic loss and such a waste. We are fortunate to still have his music to remind us of his enormous talent as a singer and songwriter, but at just fifty-two years of age, there was undoubtedly much more to come.
So rest in peace Chris Cornell, you will be missed. My deepest sympathy of course goes out to his family and in particular his wife and three children.
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