In Memoriam : Chris Cornell
One year ago today, Chris Cornell took his own life.
He finished a show with Soundgarden at the Fox Theater in Detroit, went back to his hotel room, popped a couple Ativan, called his wife and then hanged himself with an exercise band. He didn't leave a note.
That morning, I was listening to his solo album Higher Truth on my way to work. When I heard the news, I thought about writing something on my Facebook wall like everyone else. Maybe I did. But there were so many eulogies that day. Some of them gripping and visceral, all of them forgotten one year later. I spent a good portion of that day with my headphones on, not talking to anybody and listening to Higher Truth, Badmotorfinger, Audioslave and other albums where Cornell features that meant something to me.
One year later, I'm still trying to write that damned eulogy.
I've been a fan of Chris Cornell's music since I first say the video for Jesus Christ Pose when I was, like... 8 years old? Badmotorfinger is one of the first albums I've ever bought (on cassette!) and one I owned in many formats. I was so young the first time I heard Chris Cornell and music's been for such a long period of time, it was kind of always there. The way a older brother is always in his bedroom upstairs, playing guitar and vocalizing or the way your left arm is attached to your body. These are things you don't consciously ponder, because they're part of who your are.
Soundgarden in particular, hit a wordless place in me. I mean, Chris Cornell always wrote gorgeous lyrics but never directly named the feelings they were about. I tried explaining what Slaves & Bulldozers was about in a piece I had to write for work and the best I could come up with was: "it's about feelings like depression and loss of innocence piling up and turning into some kind of existential fatigue." It's not enticing when said like that, but the way Cornell sang: Bleed your heart your heart out/There's no more rides for free with the appropriate pitch and intensity, it created an alchemy that went beyond language.
I'm not the only person who felt a connection to Chris Cornell's music. He had fans all over the world and he won't be forgotten until the children of our children pass away. I like to think my connection is unique, or at least rare because of how long it's been and how I feel my life developed alongside his is musical career. If Soundgarden hit that wordless place between the anger, anxiety and sadness in my teenage self, Audioslave definitely was the soundtrack of my triumphant twenties where I emancipated and empowered myself through martial arts. And Higher Truth, his last album, well... it was the now. To me, it was living and making peace with the broken pieces of your life.
Nobody will ever know why Chris Cornell did what he did. He took that away with him. But I "get" it. Of course, I didn't know Cornell and I can't speak for what his life was like, but I know what it's like to have these fucking banshees creeping up inside your chest and under your skull certain nights. Cornell sang them away all his life and he sang them away from me too. He gave a sound to that furious energy that eats away at so many young people. He made it real and he made us feel less alone. I can't explain what got the best of Chris Cornell, but I can sometimes feel it. And knowing he lived with that for so long, it's difficult to begrudge him for not putting up with it anymore.
This is probably not the eulogy I wanted to write. It just came up to me this morning. But there is always next year. And the year after that. In the meantime, we have a lot of music to listen to.
A lot of great memories to remember Chris Cornell by.