Thursday, May 18, 2017

In Memoriam: Chris Cornell (1964 - 2017)

Soundgarden's Superunknown was the last album I ever bought on cassette tape. I remember that clearly. It was 1994, I was 17 years old, and while I won't be so bold as to say it changed my life, it certainly gave that 17 year old's life a soundtrack he had desperately needed. It instantly because my favorite album, and I have yet to hear anything better or that still speaks so directly to my soul.

And for anybody who doesn't remember or just doesn't know, a cassette is a container holding two spools that spin around and move a single piece of magnetic tape that was encoded with an album. You could fast forward and rewind, but manually and with great annoyance, so back then you used to listen to an entire album, then flip it over and start it back up again. Later on I moved over to CDs, and I still have so many that I've never listened to in their entirety. But Superunknown I played over and over until it wore itself out.

Then there was Down on the Upside, a few albums worth of solo work, and two epic super bands he co created: Temple of the Dog, with members of Pearl Jam and Mother Love Bone, and Audioslave, which was basically Cornell taking over Rage Against the Machine after Zack de la Rocha left. He even did a James Bond theme song... a good one too!... You Know My Name, for Casino Royale, Daniel Craig's first film in the series. Just for the record, only two American men have ever sung solo on a James Bond theme: Louis Armstrong and Chris Cornell. God, I wish I could hear a duet by those two.

And now he's gone. At this point they are saying it was a suicide. This is the point where I'll probably end this tribute, because I have no words. I have no words to speak to something so heart breaking, so tragic, so unspeakably soul-crushing. But Chris Cornell would. In fact, Chris Cornell did. Many of his songs read like suicide notes, which is probably why so many of them spoke so much to me. I have little doubt if Chris Cornell hadn't written and performed those songs, my 17 year old self wouldn't have grown into the 40 year old man I am today.

And I'm still listening to his music, and I always will.