In Memory of Chris Cornell: July 20, 1964 – May 18, 2017
A tribute by Tim Duran
It is with a heavy heart I write these words to you about the heaviest, most potent voice in rock n' roll, Mr. Chris Cornell. I wanted to write a column on Louder than Love and Badmotorfinger, but at this time it's fitting to give you a brief synopsis of the recorded accomplishments of Soundgarden and the voice that shot the band deep into the Superunknown.
They named themselves after an outdoor art exhibit explained as, "Sound Garden is a perfect blend of art, music and nature." This outdoor installation is tucked away on the NOAA campus in Seattle (next to Magnuson Park) overlooking the beautiful Lake Washington. It's made up of twelve steel towers, pipes and weather vanes that rotate and produce eerie sounds every time the wind blows." (Nikki Cleveland, uniqueamerca.com)
The triptych of records put out in the early and mid 90's, were a threefold masterpiece. Louder than Love made us laugh with "Big Dumb Sex", Badmotorfinger encouraged us to break our "Rusty Cage" and run, and Superunknown had us waiting for the "Black Hole Sun" to come and wash away the rain. Well, it's cloudy now, there's no hole in the sky, and it's raining ice picks on my steel shore.
Soungarden's music is like Black Sabbath meets excruciating pain. The pain in the lyrics gives only a glimpse into the mind of Cornell. Things seemed to have gotten darker for him after the death of Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) who used to be his roommate back in their club days, and the lyrics in Superunknown almost foreshadow what was to come.
Chris Cornell had style, soul, and vocal highs that could shatter glass. His guitar work and crazy time signatures were enough to make even Steve Vai break out his air guitar. The band members have immense style as well. Kim Thayil's weird East Indian type arpeggios, Matt Cameron's jazzy, heavy hand on the drums, and Ben Shepherd's in your face punk attitude on bass all came together perfectly to create a perfect sound.
"Sound Garden is a perfect blend of art, music and nature."
Fortunately, I had the chance to see them twice. Once at Lolapalooza in 1990, and again in Santa Cruz, CA in 1991, and both times I was completely memorized by their performance. The best memory I have of Chris was at the Santa Cruz show watching him all alone with the lights out, a single spotlight on him, and my jaw on the floor as he played "Mind Riot" on his electric. Later that evening, well after the show, in a Denny's restaurant who walks in but the Soundgarden guys! In a night tattooed on my mind and my favorite story to tell, I watched as they were all very kind to everyone who came up to them to shake hands, talk a bit, and ask for autographs.
Grunge is a lot like the blues, only with a modern spin. I believe it was Muddy Waters who said, "The blues wasn't made to make you feel good. It was made to make you feel worse." These last few years have been devastating to those of us who have listened and felt every word and note that flew from our speakers. The age of the icon is fading and all we can hope for is that the new generation will play with as much passion and conviction that Chris Cornell had. I guess now it's his turn to reach down and pick the crowd up. To me, he will always have the voice that's Louder than Love.
Here at Horror Metal Sounds, our hearts go out to Chris' family, band mates, and friends. May he rest in peace in The Temple of the Dog.
"No one sings like you anymore." (Black Hole Sun, Superunknown)
Tim Duran, HMS