It’s been a few weeks since the death of Chris Cornell, and I can’t lie, this one has been tough. Chris Cornell and Soundgarden have been a constant in my life since 1990. They’re the stalwart friend, always there through thick and thin.
Soundgarden entered my life just as the discontentment, boredom and uncertainty of my teenage years began to manifest itself into the angst that would plague me and my generation for the better part of a decade.
It’s hard to explain angst to anyone who has never experienced it. It’s a constant state of worry. A constant state of yes, no, maybe, I don’t know. But Soundgarden got it! The music was loud, gritty, mean and dirty. They railed against the establishment and gave a voice to our inner turmoil. In the 90’s, when the waters of adulthood got too choppy to navigate, it was Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails that I turned to for direction.
Some of my fondest memories revolve around Soundgarden. One such memory: driving to Lollapalooza in 1992 with a car full of happy idiots to see Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, turning over the odometer on the way. That car, a black Mercury Marquis with a taped on back bumper, would go on to become my “Soundgarden Mobile” when a Badmotorfinger window cling was added to the back window. Witnessing Soundgarden take a stand against censorship that day, by covering Body Count’s “Cop Killer”, just as Ice-T was facing backlash and pressure from his record label for its lyrical content, was inspiring.
(This was a very big deal at the time. If you aren’t familiar with the controversy, please Google it. It’s an interesting read.)
Memories of countless discussions and arguments regarding the meaning behind Soundgarden songs still randomly pop into my head. Ultramega OK, Louder Than Love and Badmoterfinger were the soundtrack to many nights of just hanging out with friends.
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Chris Cornell sing with Temple of the Dog. I was awestruck. The piercing, intense, dark vocals of Soundgarden were replaced with a penetrating, deep, soulful, sensitivity; a style that would dominate his solo recordings.
I was there in ’91 when they opened for Guns N’ Roses at Madison Square Garden. (Not to anyone’s surprise, Axl was late and GNR didn’t go on until after 11:00pm. When we left at 1:30am, the band was still onstage.)
I was there for the reunion tour in 2010; second to the last row in the amphitheater but I didn’t care. I was there!
And, I there there for the NIN/Soundgarden co-headlining tour of 2014. No way I was missing that.
There are enough memories to fill a book, because for me, Soundgarden was more than just background music. Soundgarden was there when relationships sucked and friends faded away. They were there when friends were taken prematurely. They were there to motivate and inspire me, personally, politically and socially. They were there when I just needed to be alone and wallow in misery.
“Say Hello 2 Heaven”, “Flower”, “Hands All Over”, “Big Dumb Sex”, “Call Me A Dog”, “My Wave”, “Loud Love”, “Slaves and Bulldozers”, “Can’t Change Me”, “Hunger Strike”, “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart”, “As Hope and Promise Fade”…
I was lucky enough to see Chris Cornell on his solo, acoustic, Songbook Tour. He was amazing and perfect. He was warm and friendly, turning the theater into his personal living room. Of the five times I’ve seen Soundgarden live, they always gave more than 100%.
I mourn Chris Cornell because, even though I’ve never met him, I feel that I’ve lost a friend. His music helped me understand the world and my part in it. His music inspired and challenged me.
I mourn for his wife and kids who will never see him again. I mourn for all his fans.
I mourn because I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Soundgarden and Chris Cornell.
R.I.P. my friend.