Loving Loud, One Year After CHRIS CORNELL's Death
In 2018, you didn’t find out someone famous has died through your local news channel or even the newspaper; you find out when that person’s face pops up over and over again in your social media feeds.
That's how I learned Chris Cornell took his own life. It happened one year ago today. He left behind a wife, three kids and an entire generation of fans who were impacted profoundly by his music – myself being one of them. I didn’t even realize how much Chris’ music meant to me until he was gone.
My formative years were lived well after the grunge era and I was a latecomer to falling in love with the style – the consequence of being a millennial, I suppose. However, once I discovered bands like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, there was no going back, and grunge has been a constant in my life ever since. I love Soundgarden – a lot – and like millions of others, I was absolutely devastated when I heard the news about Chris.
Fast forward a few months, and I found myself in a horrible mental state. I had just had my second kid, was extremely sleep deprived, and was having terrifying thoughts – thoughts I’d never had before in my life. Through that time, I felt a sort of kindred connection to Chris, knowing that he struggled with some of the same issues in his life. Soundgarden, Audioslave and Chris’s solo output became part of my solace during that time.
It’s really easy for people who don’t struggle with those kinds of issues to wonder why someone who seemingly had it all would end things the way Chris did. The death of someone as influential as Chris is painful for many, and that pain will never go away, especially for those who were closest to him; however, the fact that the stigmas surrounding mental health are being discussed more openly in the wake of his death can be perceived as a good. It certainly seems like something Chris would have wanted, given the demons he battled in his own life.
I obviously didn’t know Chris personally, and I can only imagine the pain that his wife Vicky and his three children will have to endure for the remainder of their days. My heart goes out to them, as it does to all of those who lose a loved one too soon. However, I can speak of the legacy that Chris left in my own life. He always seemed like a bit of an enigma to me – the way he conducted himself and spoke made it clear he wasn’t cut from the same cloth as other rock stars. He was confident, but not in an egotistic or pretentious sort of way; he seemed far too humble for that. In all the photos I’ve seen of him, his eyes were intense and pensive, yet still welcoming and kind. I’d like to think that’s how he was in person.
Then there was the music he wrote. Many words have been written and yet many more still will be about the immeasurable impact Chris had on rock music. His fellow musicians from the Seattle scene have been quoted as saying that he was the absolute best songwriter of them, and – not discredit their contributions, of course – they’re right. Chris poured himself into the music he wrote, and he approached it differently than any other musician ever could. Only Chris could have written songs such as “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” “Black Hole Sun,” and “Burden In My Hand.” The way he melded odd time signatures, unorthodox chord progressions and weird melodies into songs that will go down in history as being some of the best ever written was a gift and talent he was born to do.
Of course, one can’t speak about the inimitable Chris Cornell without mentioning his voice, and goddamn – what a voice it was. He had a voice that could raise the hairs on the back of your neck and seep into your very bloodstream when you heard it. It was evident very early on in his career that he was destined to be known one of the greatest singers of all time, but it wasn’t just his mere talent that got people’s attention. He was honest and genuine in his lyricism. Cryptic as they sometimes were, people could relate to the words he was singing. Most of all, he believed what he was singing. It was obvious that Chris didn’t want to be a rock star for the fame and glory such a status brings; in fact, it seems like he didn’t want to be a rock star at all. But it was deep in his bones to create the art that he did, and because of its sheer power, millions of people became enamored with Chris. He filled his music with the humanity that each of us experience.
One year later, Chris Cornell’s legacy lives on, and will continue to live on, at least in my own life, and the lives of many others, I suspect. Thank you, Chris, for showing all of us how to break out of the rusty cage of life and, most importantly, how to love loud. See you on the other side.