R.I.P. Chris Cornell : Long Live That Voice

Truth be told I haven’t followed Chris Cornell’s music career since that first Audioslave album. Call it moving forward with ones life or just not really being into what he’d been doing since “Show Me How To Live” burned into my brain. But that’s not to say he didn’t make a HUGE impression on the younger J Hub back in high school and my early 20s. The fact that he’s suddenly gone and never going to tear the roof off a theater or stadium with that massive, “Thunder-0f-the-Gods” vocal weapon of his really is quite depressing.

I bought Louder Than Love in December of 1990, on my 16th birthday, and I never looked back. That album was unlike anything I’d ever heard. It was heavy, dirty, dark, and hissy in a way that you’d a thought this cassette came out from under the front seat of some dude’s ’78 Olds Cutlass covered in dirt, dust, and THC resin. It stood in stark contrast to the Rush and various LA hair band albums I’d been slurping up heartily to that point. That album led me to Screaming Trees’ Uncle Anesthesia which led me to Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff which led me to Nirvana’s Bleach which led me to everything else. And as much as I dug Kim Thayil’s howling abuse of his Guild, it was Chris Cornell’s voice that kept me entranced and enthrallled.

Though the guy bemoaned the Robert Plant comparisons, you couldn’t help but go there. He was my generation’s Plant(no offense to the very much alive and well Robert Plant), except better in that he was an incredible songwriter and musician. He wrote complex songs with unique chord structures and lyrics that ranged from poetic to cryptic. Badmotorfinger contained some of my favorite Soundgarden tracks. “Searching With My Good Eye Closed”, “Holy Water”, “Mind Riot”, and “Rusty Cage” were some of the best songs to come out of the 90s for me. Every Soundgarden album, though maybe not all classics, had at least three or four shining moments easily. And when he stepped out on his own with Euphoria MorningΒ it was apparent he was the main music muscle in Soundgarden. Not taking anything away from Matt Cameron, Ben Shepherd, or Kim Thayil, but the feel and off-kilter melodies were all Cornell. With the help of Eleven’s Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider, Euphoria Morning turned out to be a rather unique and quite beautiful record even without much in the way of great reviews.

Audioslave was one of those projects that seemed like the greatest idea in the world and the worst idea in the world at the same time. Fortunately the good ideas outweighed the bad, at least on that first record. The grooves of RATM with the soulful, powerful belting of Cornell proved to be a lightning in the bottle moment. When they hit they hit strong, but the power quickly fizzled for me. “Show Me How To Live” was that band’s shining moment. Pure power and hooks. It was the best thing Cornell had done in years.

I was lucky enough to see Chris Cornell live twice. The first time was August of 1993 at the World Music Theater in Chicago. Soundgarden and Blind Melon opened for Neil Young who was doing both acoustic and electric sets. Seeing Soundgarden live was unreal. They were so powerful on the stage. Cornell hit every note while also expertly playing rhythm guitar. Neil Young was amazing, but Soundgarden were breathtaking, even in a mere 40 minute set. The next time I saw Cornell was in October of 1995 in Indianapolis with Audioslave. Again, amazing show. His voice started out a little rough, but by the time they closed the night out with Rage’s “Killing In The Name Of” he sounded absolutely incredible. One of the best concerts I’d ever seen.

Chris Cornell as a guy seemed like he was pretty down to earth. He had struggles with drugs and alcohol and made it through the other side. He was interviewed by Marc Maron a few years ago on Maron’s podcast and it was an enlightening conversation. He seemed very humble about the mark he’d made on the world, almost uncomfortable about it. In that respect he seemed very punk rock. He liked his privacy and he’d follow the musical muse wherever she led, whether fans dug it or not. He was a pretty funny guy, too. Soundgarden covered Cheech and Chong and Spinal Tap in the past. They also covered plenty of their influences over the years; from Devo to Black Sabbath to the Beatles to Sly and the Family Stone to the Doors. He was as much a fan as he was a music titan.

Don’t know the circumstances behind Chris Cornell’s passing, and frankly it doesn’t matter. We’ve lost one of the best rock and roll voices to emerge in the last 30 years. No one belts it like Chris Cornell. Nobody.

Go spin Badmotorfinger a few times today in honor of the man. I’m looking Indiana, and feeling kinda bummed.

35 thoughts on “R.I.P. Chris Cornell : Long Live That Voice

  1. Loved that first Audioslave album but not the others. I’ll have to revisit now for the saddest of reasons.

    I like what you say at the end. Don’t know the circumstances and frankly it doesn’t matter.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. They played ‘Hands All Over’ in ‘Pacific Heights’?? I completely forgot about that. I remember they used ‘Get On The Snake’ in ‘Lost Angels'(underrated Adam Horovitz flick) and that movie instantly became that much cooler.


  3. Black Hole Sun will forever be entwined with my memories of the summer I lived in New Orleans 1994. That song poured out of the jukebox of every lovely dive bar in the French Quarter for weeks…really bummed…we lost a good one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a great memory to have. New Orleans…1994. I wonder if Reznor was there then. Did he record ‘Downward Spiral’ in New Orleans or the Tate house in California? I know he recorded something there, anyways.


  4. Like you I dropped off after the buzz of that first Audioslave album. Didn’t jump back on the Cornell express until King Animal. Solo, I was happy with just Euphoria Morning.

    I felt there was more coming. Another defining moment… but not this.

    17 year old James is obsessing over Superunknown, just as 39 year old Jim does.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Superunknown was and is a masterpiece. Not a bad song on it. Badmotorfinger sort of defined my senior year of high school. I remember coming home on a Tuesday after going on a field trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art with my Art and English class. As soon as I got home I flew over to Video World and picked up the cassette and popped it into the Nova’s cassette deck and proceeded to go deaf. It was glorious.


  6. He had SO much awesome material. Soundgarden- espesh the earlier stuff- was my main jam ( i still remember getting in trouble at school for wearing my Badmotorfinger shirt that had the “satan oscillate my metallic sonata” palindrome on the back of it), and i kinda didn’t keep following what he was doing after Audioslave ( for no particular reason) , but i know he just kept going and going. Dude had a huge voice, but was also pretty handy with the instruments too. 😦 Too many feels about this whole subject. I won’t rant. I just hope he’s in a better place now…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had that shirt! My brother picked it up for me when he saw them back in 91 opening for, of all people, Guns and Roses. He said they blew GnR out of the water.

      I hope he’s found some peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I played Outshined for my kids, they liked it. And they noticed the time signature shift too. Parenting done right! πŸ™‚

    This really is sad news. 52 is way too young for anybody to go. Really liked your last line.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, they didn’t know to call it that, but they knew it was different and pointed it out. Since they’re 8 and 5, I explained it to them as counting to 4, then 3, then starting over (instead of counting to 4, then 4, etc) and they got it. My son’s face twisted as he worked it out, but he liked it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha yeah, maybe! He’s always had a mind that loves figuring things out. He likes following steps to see a result – building a 1000 piece Lego set in 3 hours, that sort of thing. But usually, if you explain something to him (like math, or how something works, or how something is put together), he asks until he understands and then he never forgets. So yeah, music is a structure, like math, and it has steps. I’m sure he’d be great at it if he so chose. We’re hoping he’ll use his powers only for good, never for evil. πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Exactly! Haha he’s a good kid. If he’s good at maths later on, he definitely didn’t get it from me. πŸ˜‰ Of course, I wanna get them both into music. My girl likes to sing and dance. Maybe he could play, she could do her thing, and they could tour the world…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This was a great read. I have a great love for all the music that came out of Seattle at that time. I love Soundgarden, Nirvana, Screaming Trees and Mudhoney. Pearl Jam is my all-time favorite band. Of all of those artists, he may not have been my favorite stylistically, but he was, in terms of vocal ability, the most talented by far. One of the greatest all-time rock vocalists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was just a lot of quality bands that got their due in such a short amount of time. Every week back in the late 80s and early 90s there seemed to be a new band to check out. New to me, anyways. So many of them had been playing for years locally in Seattle.

      Thanks for stopping by.


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