It’s been about a year and two months since one of the greatest voices in rock and roll history was silenced too soon. Today would have been Chris Cornell’s 54th birthday. This year, Alternative Nation wanted to do something a little different to celebrate his life. Since his birthday last year was very soon after his passing, we understand how difficult it was to come up with the words to explain what we were feeling. We could hardly do it ourselves.
While we still cannot quite comprehend this loss, we recently reached out to fans of Chris’s, asking them to share their sentiments about his influence and the legacy he left behind. Written below are passages from all over – some by writers, some music fanatics, some by other musicians. Diverse in age, gender, nationality, and lifestyle, what we all have in common is how much we appreciated him and his music, and how much we miss him. The differences among us confirm the kind of impact he has had on people all over the world.
Lauryn Schaffner, New Jersey
As for me, music didn’t sound the same for a long time after Chris’s passing. It lost some of its sweetness, and even now all of his songs have a lingering haunting element. He was one of the biggest musical inspirations to me, and I had made it a goal of mine to get to sit down and speak with him one day for an interview. The day I found out he was gone, I felt as though a piece of my soul had been ripped out. His poetic words, his angelic voice, his appreciation for humankind, and his compassion were unmatched – I only hope he has found the Higher Truth he had been seeking.
Happy Birthday, Chris.
Brett Buchanan, California
There would not be an Alternative Nation, or as it was originally called Grunge Report, without Chris Cornell. Some of my first musical memories as a kid are my dad cranking Soundgarden in the car, playing “Burden in My Hand” on repeat. I dug deep into Grunge years later as a teenager, and Chris became one of my musical heroes. One of the happiest moments of my life was finding out Soundgarden would reunite on New Years Day in 2010, and seeing Soundgarden for the first time in July 2011 at the Forum to this day remains one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The show took place a couple days after Chris’s birthday and there was a party for him after the show.
I have so many other great memories of seeing Chris on his solo tours and with Soundgarden that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Chris’s loss has been very tough, I saw him as a survivor who had made it through his struggles. It still upsets me that he is now part of the club of musicians who died young. He should still be here with his family. I haven’t been to many concerts since his passing, there just aren’t many artists still going who compare to Chris. No one sings like you anymore.
Wherever you are Chris on what would have been your 54th birthday, I hope you have found peace, as your music has given me so much during the times I’ve needed it most.
Josh Brist, Michigan
Chris, I will never forget waking up that morning to the news that you were gone. I was devastated. Due to some health issues, I wasn’t able to attend the last concert which happened to be in my home town of Detroit. I told myself that it was ok and I would do my best to see Soundgarden the next time around…. Your music has gotten me through some very difficult and dark times in my life. Whether it was your work with Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, or your solo career, your brilliance and compassion was evident. Far too soon you left this world of ours. I know I will get to see you someday, but until then Happy Birthday and say hello 2 heaven for me.
Lzzy Hale, Halestorm
Chris Cornell was a medium to another world. His voice oozed beauty, pain, and darkness. Through his art he inspired and gave so much hope to all who experienced it. We will continue to carry that hope and his legend forever. Happy Birthday Chris.
Seth Godwin, Florida
Chris wasn’t just another musician in my eyes, he was THE musician. He was everything I, as a fan, would want in a musical idol. He made amazing, real music, he wasn’t afraid to be himself, and he actually cared about his fans. One of my life’s biggest regrets will always be not seeing him perform live. I hope wherever he is, he’s happy and doing what he loves.
Nick Reese, Joyous Wolf
Chris Cornell changed my entire perspective on what a vocalist could be. As I and the other members of Joyous Wolf stood and watched Temple of The Dog perform at the Forum, it was honestly a religious experience. His presence was omnipotent, every soul in the building was at his command and he barely had to lift a finger. He set the bar so extraordinarily high I doubt anybody will ever reach it again.
When I was still finding myself musically there was something about the tone and content of his lyrics that connected right to my core. I would think to myself when I would be practicing, if I can just scratch the surface of the dense atmosphere that was Chris Cornell, then maybe I could find something inside. He definitely helped me discover who I am not just as a vocalist, but as a person. When he passed away I was shell shocked, I thought it had to be a cruel joke, but it wasn’t. It happened at an already negative time which just seemed to make it extend into infinity. A hero and inspiration to many was no longer with us…that was hard to swallow. But the reaction from the world only cemented further his importance to the history of music. He left behind a body of work that may never be eclipsed. Never again will we see another Chris Cornell.
Nasser Daoud, Ohio
The death of Chris Cornell was a sad one and he meant a great deal to many, including myself. I grew up listening to him a lot in Soundgarden and Audioslave. I also learned to play many of his songs. Though, I didn’t really appreciate him as much until his work with Zac Brown Band. You really don’t get good rock music these days and he was one that inspired many through his rock/grunge sound and astounding vocals. I wish him a happy birthday, he will be missed.
Kristian Themstrup, South Carolina
It was November 21, 1996 at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. Soundgarden was about a month into their world tour and it was the first time I saw them live after being infatuated with their brand of rhythm and electric grunge, something I loved since I found Kurt and company with Nevermind in ’91. For two hours, I reveled in Chris’ voice, a towering gust of wind across the intimate venue, shaking the walls and warming the crowd that came in from the freezing Philly streets. They opened with “Spoonman”, the iconic anthem that had me curling my fingers, making a fist to throw into the air over and over again.
Just to hear his voice in person, that familiar friend from so many late nights, surprised me. You never think artists can sing as well in person as it is on the recordings, but Chris was better live, he was honest and raw. You didn’t have any choice but to love him and SG after that night, especially with perfection like “Pretty Noose,” “Rusty Cage,” “Blow Up The Outside World” and “Fell On Black Days.” But where I knew I was seeing a legend, a rock and roll talent beyond many of his peers, was when he pulled off his shirt and played an acoustic version of “Black Hole Sun.” Standing alone in the spotlight, on fire and exposed, the mysterious treble of the song rolled across my body and solidified my eternal admiration and respect.
Many years have passed since that night, including Chris as well. There are other parts to the story, like Euphoria Morning and Audioslave, but nothing will compare to his performance in that warehouse that night in Philly, when I could hear the summit of a man, a voice, and music that forever will define my life.
Mike Cupido, Canada
I was fortunate enough to see Chris perform live with Soundgarden several times, with Audioslave twice, with Temple of The Dog at PJ20 and solo live in my hometown of Hamilton. Chris was always a welcomed presence in Ontario, especially in Toronto where he likely sold-out every show he played from the early 90’s on. Chris Cornell’s lyrics, music and presence served to empower many of his fans while also creating waves of emotion. Chris had that special talent. Plus, he looked the part of a rockstar. He was the total package and he will be greatly missed by his Canadian fans. Happy Birthday to Chris, wherever he may be!
JP Wood, Alabama
Happy Birthday Chris! Your music really provided the soundtrack to my last few months of high school, and for that reason will always hold an important spot in my life. I had never been so enthralled with another musician’s voice or songwriting ability, but each new song I heard that you had lent your talent to just blew me away. Higher Truthmight be one of my favorite albums ever. The songwriting is just on another level. Thank you so much for what you did for music. You are greatly missed.
Thomas Paine, Oregon
Chris Cornell meant a lot to me, he was one of my favorite singers and I will miss him a lot and loved his voice and the way he always loved to help people. I just wish I could have seen him live at least once.
Angus Pritchard, Australia
Chris Cornell, to me, was and still is the greatest singer of all time. The way he was able to use his voice to convey so many different emotions and sing so many different ways never ceases to amaze me across all of his work. He was able to go from haunting and melancholy to hitting these shrieking high notes like it was nothing, expressing both sadness and pain all in one line. In his solo, acoustic-based work, he brought so much soul to the music through his voice. His natural rasp just added an entirely new dimension and was the thing that attracted me in the first place. His lyrics and how he matched them with the way he sang makes any listener feel his emotions, and it’s the first time I felt anything like that from music.
My favourite song of all time is “The Day I Tried To Live,” in large part due to Chris Cornell’s vocal contrast between the verse and chorus. He’s able to be melancholy and soulful in the verses and then explode into this intense, yet still harmonic, emotional output for the chorus that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. The lyrics dealing with himself being anti-social and the ‘hopefulness’ is something everyone can relate to at some point in their life when they feel like the entire world is against them and they just don’t fit. He was always so good at singing about these personal problems he faced and making them feel so relatable, in turn making us feel like we’re not alone in how we feel. He expressed love so beautifully with his soul, anger so passionately with his grit, and pain so emotionally with his intensity, and will forever be missed. Sending love from Australia, and wishing him a Happy Birthday, his legacy will live on through his fans, friends, and family.
Chris Buckley, New York
Happy birthday to Chris Cornell. It’s truly hard to believe he’s already been gone for over a year. I know it’s been difficult for fans to come to terms with the fact he’s no longer here – myself included. The day he passed is one I will never forget – it feels like yesterday. Waking up to the news was both brutal and sobering. It was the first time I ever shed a tear over the loss of a musician. I drove to work that day blasting “Fell on Black Days.”
I’ve often had discussions with friends and fellow music lovers about who the greatest rock singer of all time is. Of course, everyone has their own opinion and tastes, but my answer has always been and always will be Chris Cornell. He was so simply able to sing any song he wanted and somehow make it sound all his own. His vocal range was outrageous. His screams give me chills. His simple, stripped-down versions of songs are some of my favorite performances by any artist. I’m only 24. But, as I age, I realize how important it is to go see my favorite bands whenever I can, for the simple but frustrating fact that life is strange and sometimes inexplicable. I could wake up tomorrow and be without some of my favorite musicians, just like CC. In a way, music is much like a loved one – we listen to songs to feel consoled, loved, to vent frustrations, to rejoice. When we lose one of our idols, it’s like losing that loved one – someone that helped you through the bad times and made you appreciate the best times. Chris Cornell gave all of those emotions to me and fans everywhere – he still does. He may be off in the Superunknown, but we all keep his memory alive every time we play his music. His legacy will live on forever. “The voice of a generation, an artist for all time.”
Joey Hayek, New Jersey
Chris Cornell was everything that “rock” should be. An unapologetically original musician and someone who gave his voice to countless people who struggled to find their own. Visceral energy and charisma with a one in a million voice to back it all up. He’s not with us anymore but close your eyes and listen to “Overfloater” and try and tell me he’s not right there in the room with you.
I think the loss of someone like Chris once again proves that music is the key to eternal life.
Marc Vindas, New Jersey
Chris Cornell I miss you…we miss you. Growing up each song has had such a strong impact in my life. When times were rough, your lyrics were comforting. When times were great your songs rolled with me. I remember listening to I Am The Highway on repeat. You encouraged me to be the person I am and made me feel confident about who I am. No one could change me. We will never wave goodbye to you Chris. Your soul may be gone but your name will never be forgotten. Happy Birthday.
Sofi May, Uruguay
I didn’t know Chris Cornell, but I’ve always felt very close to him in some way, through his music. Chris was one of the main reasons I started studying music and writing my own songs. No other artist has had as big of an impact on me as he had. The way he was able to convey emotions so naturally through his songs, his voice, his lyrics… he was one of a kind. I am still devastated over the fact that I never got to see him live, or tell him how much he has helped me get through over the years. Happy birthday Chris, I only hope that wherever you are, you are at peace.
Jake Davies, Of Limbo
A little over a year ago now, in the middle of the night, my phone exploded with 50 texts coming in in the space of a minute or so. It was the news of your ascension. You left a legacy of songs that have absolutely no rival. When people say that Layne was the greatest singer in grunge, I point them to the Alice In Chains song that you sang on Chris, “Right Turn.” When you came in 5 octaves above any known human register on songs, you were clearly not a man, you were god.
Rich Lawton, Massachusetts
Growing up in the northeast in the 90’s was interesting. I had older friends at the time into the grunge scene, I didn’t even know where Seattle was at 11. I remember hearing Soundgarden, then Temple of the Dog, sung by this dude whose voice had this pitch and rhythmic ferocity. From that point forward I followed his music. It got me through key points in my life, especially Audioslave, when I graduated high school. Every time I hear his voice, it brings me back to a simpler time, where hanging out outside, or having the radio with CDs on playing videogames, or hiking with the Walkman, made the difference. Learning about Chris too, that he was a kind soul, just a real person, genuine, someone who you could relate too. He means lot to my life.
Dave Travers, Connecticut
Your music is great. Your lyrics, inspiring. And your voice, completely unique in every way. You are a powerhouse songwriter and performer. You inspired me to write songs and start a band.
I hope you know how loved you are by your family and how adored you are by your fans. Thank you for all the music and great concert memories.
After reading this and sharing these feelings with fellow music lovers – if any of you have ever felt less than what you are worth…please think of Chris and the worldwide devastation his death has caused. And know that someone else’s whole world would be devastated without you, too.
Take care of yourselves.