It’s really sad how standard the death of a beloved artist feels at this point. Nonetheless, the sting of this loss is no less powerful. Chris Cornell wasn’t the cultural icon that Prince was, but personally, this one feels worse. Cornell is one of the few artists that, no matter what he did, I was a fan. He had an incredibly diverse career, and I really enjoy the music from every part of it.
Cornell has been one of my favorite artists, pretty much since I was old enough to choose what I listened to. Few other artists were capable of working so well, with so many different people. He was rock’s rennaissance man; a pioneer of grunge in Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog, bringing rock sounds to the music of Rage Against the Machine, and eventually showing us a melower — but no less intense — side. Sometimes soaring, sometimes somberly crawling, Cornell’s voice was simultaneously ugly and beautiful. His octave spanning screams captured the grief and struggle of human existence.
Soundgarden may have been one of the first grunge rock bands, but its musical complexity set it apart from the rest of its genre. There was always an otherworldly quality to the music of Soundgarden; Kim Thaylil’s shredding felt very oriental — probably a result of his Indian upbringing — as though he were playing a distorted sitar, the perfect accompaniement to Cornell’s wavering croons.
The music that Cornell produced with Temple of the Dog, was insignifigant in the grand scheme of things, but at the same time, oh so signifigant. Formed out of the ashes of Grunge group “Mother Lovebone”, the band’s hit “Hunger strike introduced the band to Eddie Vedder; the rest was history.
In 2001, Cornell joined forces with Brad Wilk, Tim Commerford, and Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine. The band aimed to make apolitical music, built upon the counds that made both Soundgarden and Rage great. The result was a musical wonder. The equivalent of kinking a hose till a powerful aquatic deluge rushes force, the shift from boundless hip-hop, the outlet showed Morello’s proficiency at maintaning key signature, and complementing harmony. Naturally, a hose can only withstand such pressure for so long; the band’s last record was in 2007. Leaving behind, among other future classics, “Like A Stone” which may be the most sonically staisfying rock track ever to grace our inner ears
By far, Cornell’s most profound work was his 2016 record Higher Truth It clearly owed its style to 30 years of experience, but when I heard it for the first time, It was the freshest, newest thing I had ever heard. Overwhelmingly simple, but with soulful vocalization, and acoustic guitar, the album still gives me chills.
There is no glorifying the way Chris left. Yes, he’s left behind plenty of great music, but I am almost certain he wasn’t out of ideas. He was a seasoned rock veteran, but I can’t help but feel as though he still had his whole career ahead of him. Alas, the bigger and better things Chris was destined for, will never be reached. I think that, as an observant person, Chris saw through society’s facade, and realized the existence of a great emptiness in the world. A lack of meaning; something that is all too present if one has no purpose. So, if this tragedy can teach us anything, it is that we must find our purpose –whatever it may be — and never lose sight of it. As writers, artists, or just citizens, whatever we may be, we must pour ourselves into it; seize the day. Always remember that as terrible as this life is sometimes, it is beautiful at others, and that this world is not all there is.