How Chris Cornell Can Live On In 2018

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Chris Cornell’s last song, “The Promise,” has been nominated for a Best Rock Performance Grammy for 2018.

I wrote the article Why Chris Cornell Is The King Of Grunge back in January, right after the Audioslave reunion. I watched the performance online and was impressed. He just finished touring Higher Truth a few months prior, then did Temple of the Dog, just did Audioslave, and now Soundgarden was going on tour? He was on a roll.

I had to make a few revisions, of course, because the part about he and Eddie Vedder being the last ones alive is….no longer true. I saw Soundgarden for the last time in April at Welcome to Rockville, and the news of his passing broke the morning I was traveling to Rock on the Range where Soundgarden would have been headlining the next evening.

Alternative Nation is reposting this article because these are the reasons we believe “The Promise” should win the Grammy, so he can live on through the legacy of his music in 2018. Not because he should be glorified since he passed away, but because he was one of the best musicians ever, and “The Promise” is further proof of this.

His Range

First and foremost, his range was what made him stand out so much from his contemporaries. It was incredibly extensive, and he implemented it into most of his songs by growling deeply and belting high. “Beyond the Wheel” by Soundgarden is perhaps the most appropriate example of this. While Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland, and Layne Staley were the other main signature voices of the grunge era and all have their own distinct vocal styles, Chris’s range and crisp sound made his the most extraordinary.

His Lyrics

Not only was he an outstanding singer, but a gifted and poetic songwriter. From social issues to sweet songs about his daughter and family, none of his verses sound forced or nonsensical. Here’s an excerpt from the chorus of his emotional song, “Sunshower”:

Though your garden’s gray
I know all your graces
Someday will flower
In a sweet sunshower

Fronting Multiple Acts & A Solo Career

Chris was a successful musician over his career by fronting three different bands and also maintaining a solo career. He founded Soundgarden in the early-mid 1980s, before Nirvana. They got a deal with SST Records in 1988 to release their debut record Ultramega OK. In 1990, he formed Temple of the Dog to honor the late Andy Wood, his roommate and frontman of another Seattle band called Mother Love Bone. They put out a self-titled record in 1991, while he was still fronting Soundgarden as well.

After five studio albums, Soundgarden broke up in 1997, and Chris pursued a solo career. He put out Euphoria Mourning in 1999, and then founded the supergroup, Audioslave, with members of Rage Against the Machine in 2001. Audioslave’s overall vibe was not as dark as Soundgarden’s, but instead was more thunderous, staying natural to Rage Against the Machine’s original sound. The pounding riffs and his iconic vocals together established Audioslave as one of the most popular bands of the 2000s, until they called it quits in 2007 after releasing three records.

He put out two more solo records following the split of Audioslave in 2007 (Carry On) and 2009 (Scream). In 2011, he released the popular live album Songbook, which featured his acoustic solo performances. Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and released King Animal, their final album together, in 2012.

Since 2015, Chris Cornell had done more for rock than any musician in years. He fronted Mad Season’s Sonic Evolution reunion show in Seattle, put out another solo record, Higher Truth, in 2015, and then toured extensively over the next year in support of it. In the fall of 2016, Temple of the Dog reunited for its first tour in honor of their album being released 25 years prior. With only eight dates, the tour sold out in MINUTES.

Chris reunited with Audioslave for a few songs at Prophets of Rage’s Anti-Inaugural Ball in January of 2017. Around this time, Soundgarden also announced they would be headlining major festivals with bands like Metallica, Def Leppard and Korn. They also announced their own spring tour supported by The Pretty Reckless.

Their final show with The Pretty Reckless at the Fox Theatre in Detroit would be Chris’ last performance before he took his own life in May of 2017. This was the night before he was set to headline Rock on the Range with Soundgarden. Soundgarden also had another album on the way.

He also did tons of covers as well as collaborations with Slash, Carlos Santana, Zac Brown Band, and more.

The Promise

“The Promise” itself is a whole other reason to add to this list. About the Armenian Genocide, the song oozes his sheer passion for bringing turmoil to light. He was compassionate about the world around him, and now it misses him.

Chris left behind a legacy that most other musicians have not even come close to. Three bands and several solo records, hundreds of songs both original and covers. An inimitable voice and unsurpassed lyrical talent. A lover. A leader. An icon.

No one sings like you anymore.

  • Olga Stewart

    He will always live on.

  • Jesusswept

    GOAT.

  • Billy

    Hopefully at the 1 year anniversary some unreleased songs will start coming out. Maybe Vicki releases some solo stuff, Aslave release the bsides they have, but i’m most curious about the state of the last Garden album. Were there any completed demos? It would be very interesting to see what those lyrics were.
    For the first few months i could only bring myself to listen from the first Aslave album to Higher Truth, now i’ve been having a hard time listening to any of his material. I haven’t touched a Garden album Pre- King Animal since he died.

    I figured time would make things easier

    • Trovoid

      I’m still struggling myself.. I listen to early Soundgarden still but it’s difficult. I can also say that I’m extremely interested in the new Soundgarden demos. Something tells me they won’t be released any time soon.. I wonder if the lyrics reflect his state of mind over the last year or so. I just feel so awful, I wish we knew something besides, “He seemed great when I last saw him!”

      What was really going on?

      • Billy

        Even him posting part of the By Crooked Steps lyrics that day makes that song more ominous to me. I don’t think i really want to figure out the meaning to A thousand Days before either. We could certainly argue that he had lots more earlier lyrics that seemed much more upfront about it though.
        Ultimately i think that dealing with addictions and depression still at 52 he just got tired and figured things were never going to change. Roughly 40 years of on and off again substance issues, rehab, relapses has to take a toll. If he doesn’t take those 2 extra Ativan after the show, does he still end things? Was that just enough of a push for him to be ok with letting go?

        • makingconnections

          Billy and Trovoid: I listened to Chris Cornell’s music constantly after he died, but I too have been finding it more difficult as there seems to be little opportunity to move on from the sadness of his passing. I have come to believe that he was physically ill when he died. A few of us discussed last week that one of the drugs he was taking, that was visible on a table in his hotel room, was Prendisone, a serious steroid-based drug that is used for injuries or illnesses. He looked so unwell for the past few years and the performance at the Anti-Inaugural event where a musician friend suggested he was “shining”, seems to me to be a musician who couldn’t do what he once did because of illness. The picture of him attached to “The Promise” shows an unhealthy person. I can’t watch him perform the song. When you’re unwell your energy level goes down and if you tend to get depressed it’s a hard road.

          • Billy

            there absolutely could be something to that. If he had some sort of illness that he knew was effecting his ability to perform, that could be the catalyst.
            Whatever #nomorebullshit meant is the answer to everything i think. i’m certain he knew he was going to end things before that concert started

          • makingconnections

            Yes, when people say: “He didn’t look or seem suicidal”, it shows how little most of us understand of the condition. I think he probably was trying to resist the compulsion to end his life many times during his life. He really did seem so deeply weary by “The Promise”; didn’t smile so much. The loneliness that one must feel at a time like that it what makes me so sad.

          • Billy

            He looks so distant in that video, but the lyrics seem to fly in the face of his actions. That is one song i can’t listen to for awhile

          • makingconnections

            My husband does not have an ounce of interest in music. It’s a very strange thing but he just doesn’t have the music gene! The day after Chris died I asked him to listen to ‘Since You Took Your Love Away” with me. Towards the end of the song, he grabbed my hand, then jumped up and left the room. He wanted to know what was wrong, why was Chris Cornell hurting so badly? That is how raw and powerful the vulnerability that he shows is and why we’re still sad i think.

          • Trovoid

            I agree that his health probably wasn’t all that great. Chris was already prone to depression throughout his life.. As we all know, the rates of suicide are high amongst middle aged men. Read my reply to Billy if you want, Makingconnections. I posted some of my feelings about the whole thing. He probably thought it was all downhill from here..

        • Trovoid

          Yeah I agree that post makes it more ominous. King Animal was very dark lyrically but I figured it was Chris just getting back in the Soundgarden mindset. I guess a huge part of Chris’ humility and kindness was that he has been living on the edge for years. I think that he may have taken that extra Ativan to take away the fear. It’s like how a lot of suicides happen after getting drunk first. Benzos slow down the mind. He had been through a lot. I can’t see an experienced user experiencing any kind of delirium.. I think the happier Chris we saw in the mid 2000s was desperately trying to survive. He probably pondered suicide around Euphoria Morning and the self titled Audioslave album. Who knows though? At the end of the day it’s all speculation and I think that’s why we’re still bothered.

          All I know is that a possible unhealthy marriage, stalker issues, addiction issues, depression/anxiety issues, loss of muscle mass, aging vocal chords, and a Hollywood/workaholic lifestyle didn’t help his cause. Sometimes I wonder if he was checking off a bucket list by doing the acoustic shows, reuniting Soundgarden, TOTD and Audioslave. Or maybe May 18th was just a spur of the moment kind of an ordeal. I just can’t imagine Chris having a bad day and hanging himself. It must’ve been years of worsening issues. I guess he is proof that you can’t always manage depression on your own. He may have had periods of remission but I’m not sure if he ever got help beyond the Ativan or rehab. I’m in my 20s and have mental health issues. I can’t imagine another 30 years like this.

          Susan Silver said in the book Grunge Is Dead (This was around DOTU):

          “I think Chris was really starting to suffer from untreated depression — the way he wasn’t focused on what he needed to be focused on, in terms of making the record. And stopped participating in a way that was productive for everybody. Chris would come home and literally be on the floor in a ball, crying, in the middle of the night. He was inconsolable.”

          • makingconnections

            You know Trovid, when I think of you and so many other obviously fine and intelligent people on here and those that I have in my life who struggle with emotional health, I think we do amazingly well considering the burdens we carry….and then there’s the saying: “Growing old isn’t for the faint of heart”.
            In an interview with a friend, probably during the Euphoria Morning Time, Chris is said to have asked: “Why, when I have a new girlfriend, a nice car outside, lots of money, am I looking for the stairway to take me to the top floor in case I want to jump? My intuition tells me he battled a sort of OCD thing with suicide, but what do I know really.
            I do know how much i care about you, Kay and Olga and I told Kay once that I wish I lived down the road from her to be available to her if she needed someone to lean on. I feel that way about all of you and I know you have people in your life who care that much. Keep turning to them. I’m hoping they do the research on depression and anxiety and find better treatments. When I think of you in your 20’s I want to tell you that sometimes it takes a while to find a doctor you can actually be helped by. I was in my 30’s when I met a pain specialist who cared so much for all her patients, but I felt liked I was the only one that mattered when she was trying different treatments on me for migraine. In the end I think her acknowledgment of the pain and her concern gave me more help than I’d ever had. I know it’s easy for me to say, but please try to stand tall and find areas of life that you can love and be engaged in. I believe that someday you may be looking back on this time from a much better place. The work we have to do here to learn our lessons is bloody hard, is it not?!

          • Trovoid

            I also think we do amazingly well despite some of the burdens we carry. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris had some sort of OCD or intrusive thoughts. Sometimes I feel I can sense when someone has similar issues although I try to be careful and make sure I’m not psychologically projecting.

            I care about you and others on here as well. Your words actually mean a lot to me right now, I’ve been ruminating pretty badly the last several weeks. I forget my passions and needs very often. I’ve found that doing nothing every day just causes the inner dialogue to get louder and louder. It’s sad that many bright people punish and neglect themselves daily. Thank you so much for the support and the encouragement. Life lessons usually come from very difficult experiences. Everyone always tells me I’m young still but I feel like I’m running out of time and have missed out on many experiences that most young people have had. I try to remind myself that it’s not too late. I am very afraid of the world but I know I’ll be happier if I get out of my comfort zone and express myself. Thanks for the inspiration, I wish you the best always.

            “Reminding you of all the days
            When you collected hell to pay
            I said it’s not too late
            Incessant Mace”

          • makingconnections

            Thank you for responding Trovoid…I just want to add that being older than you, i can honestly say that for me, the world was never as scary as it was in my 20’s….somehow some sort of love of this place became stronger and as I found I could cope so much better than I thought I could, some confidence came and a desire to be embracing this experience became important too. I don’t live every day feeling wonderful and sometimes I feel like my heart has turned to stone, but some sort of well being comes back. It doesn’t last, the darkness. Sometimes I get a huge kick out of the oddest things and it impacts me beautifully, like when the teen-aged couple who are homeless in a city nearby that I thought I’d connected with told me to fuck off when i asked how they were doing.. i walked away with a huge smile on my face because I knew I was meant to not get to sure of myself. haha!

          • Olga Stewart

            You mean a lot to me too, my dear.

            And thank you. :).

          • Billy

            I agree that the last few years with Mad Season, Temple,impromptu Aslave reunion etc that he was having one more go around. It just seems too coincidental that all of that ocurred shortly before the end. Maybe he was trying to find happiness again and just couldn’t

          • Debbie Jo Abrams Moore

            I agree. It’s as though he came full circle now that we can stand back and look at all he was doing leading up to his passing. Reuniting with everyone in such a short period of time…as though to tie up any loose ends. I know all of those band members are so grateful to have had those final memories with him. He is so loved…I wish he could have felt it that night. It’s made me more aware of how much we should all make sure our beloved musicians know how much we appreciate them and stand away from putting pressure on them. Forever in my heart Chris!!!

          • Olga Stewart

            I’m in my 40’s and I have been suffering from mental illness for at least 20 something years (probably more. But at the time, I didn’t know what it was).

            And there were times when I thought I would never get past a very bad episode in my life.

            I did. But it was not easy. In fact, it took many years and a lot of work for me to get where I am now.

            But still, there are moments where I do feel really down and I can remember how it affected me from before.

            So I can sort of understand what Chris must have been dealing with.

            And what Susan said in that book about Chris?

            That just tore my heart apart.

          • Trovoid

            Yep, there will always be difficult days. It’s really all about learning how to manage your emotions. I’ve been suffering for as long as I can remember. It seems my problems became severe after high school. A lot of us are in the same boat and we are strong for continuously moving forward (even when nothing feels right).

            I feel Susan understood Chris better than most people until everything went downhill. She seemed to give him the strength and confidence to be in the limelight. I remember reading that before he died and thinking how amazing it was that Chris was able to overcome all of that. It’s too bad he slipped back into that dark place but that doesn’t mean we’re all doomed. His death is a reminder to all of us to listen to and take care of each other.

          • Olga Stewart

            Yes, we do have to both listen to and take care of each other.

            There are too many people out there who are suffering. And some who are suffering alone.

            So they need love, kindness, and compassion (Just like the rest of us).

          • Olga Stewart

            And Trovoid, I do admire both your honesty and courage.

            And I think that with both time and work, things will start to make more sense.

          • Trovoid

            Thank you Olga. I admire your openness on here as well.

          • Olga Stewart

            You’re most welcome and thank you kindly. :).

  • Debbie Jo Abrams Moore

    He deserves this award. I don’t have the
    words to express how passionate I am about this. For all he has done, for all he has given, it’s long over due to reward him with the recognition that belongs to him. I only wish he were here to receive it. Well written article. Thank you!