I woke up this morning to the shocking news that Soundgarden singer and Seattle music legend Chris Cornell was found dead in his Detroit hotel room mere hours after performing with his band at the Fox Theatre. As I read various social media posts, my eyes welled up as I had to come to terms that another one of my heroes was gone. Gone way too soon.
Anyone that has followed my articles here at TopGolf will know my love for the music of the 90s, especially the Seattle scene. Cornell, along with Soundgarden, were one of the big four of the Seattle movement. In fact, out of the four bands, Soundgarden was the first to release music.
Born and raised in Seattle, Cornell founded Soundgarden with guitarist Kim Thayil in 1984, releasing their first EP through Sub Pop in 1987. The buzz around the band continued to grow before coming to a head in 1991 when Badmotorfinger was released (the same year as Nevermind and Ten). This put Seattle on the map for cultivating the grunge scene, a scene that was now exploding all over the country.
Along with Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Layne Staley, Cornell became the face of the movement and his legacy began to grow. Badmotorfinger gave us classics like Rusty Cage and Outshined which showed the world that Cornell’s almost four octave vocal range was one of—if not the best—in music at the time (and over the last 25+ years).
As if releasing a rock classic wasn’t enough, Cornell teamed up with former Mother Love Bone members and with drummer Matt Cameron to record the Temple of the Dog album. The loving tribute to Andy Wood is another classic album and when fans heard Hunger Strike, hearing Cornell trade verses with Eddie Vedder was magic.
Soundgarden’s greatest success would come with the 1994 release of Superunknown. Debuting at #1 on the charts, the album (which is on many “best of” lists) gave us some of the band’s most memorable songs:
Personally, my favorite Soundgarden album was Down on the Upside. I felt connected to the album at the time and is still my go-to Soundgarden record. I could sit in a room and listen to songs like Burden in My Hand, Pretty Noose, and Blow Up the Outside World all day long.
In 1997, Soundgarden broke up and Cornell pursued a solo career, which he continued until his passing, releasing five solo albums in total. I highly suggest checking out Cornell’s solo work as you get to see a different side of his music.
In fact, the first sense of what he could do on his own is on the Singles Soundtrack with what’s my all-time favorite song Cornell has ever recorded, Seasons. It was also the first song I played today after I learned of his passing.
Cornell’s solo shows were must-see whenever he came to town, and I was lucky enough to attend quite a few of them over the years. Not only was it the only chance to see his solo work, but he played many acoustic versions of songs throughout his entire career.
For a great sample of what his solo shows were like, check out the link to his Unplugged in Sweden show.
In 2002, Cornell teamed up with Rage Against the Machine, minus Zack De La Rocha, to form supergroup Audioslave. During their 5 years together, the band released three albums and had a slew of hits.
The power of his backing band with the power of his voice made Audioslave one of the most exciting bands to hear both on record and live. In 2010, after 12 years apart, Soundgarden reunited to the delight of fans everywhere. A reunion tour in 2011 was pure nostalgia, as I can attest to as I saw two shows on the tour.
It was great to see my heroes back on stage together again and that Cornell hadn’t lost a step vocally. The band recorded a new album in 2012, King Animal, which was a return to form for the band. Last year, the dreams of many of us were answered when Temple of the Dog reunited for a 25th anniversary tour.
I can close my eyes and still see myself at Madison Square Garden rocking out to songs I never imagined I would hear live. Check out the video below for a look at the amazing show I witnessed.
Sadly, that will be the last time I saw Chris Cornell perform live. As I’m writing this tribute, I still have tears in my eyes at the thought of another one of my heroes gone. The last song Cornell played last night was Slaves and Bulldozers.
However, it was the middle of the song that stands out as he covered Led Zeppelin’s In My Time of Dying which is cryptic as the song deals with death. Hours later, he was dead.
Farewell to a man who will never be forgotten as his legend will live on forever in his music. You have touched millions of fans all over the world with one of the most amazing voices ever heard, and I think the right way to end this tribute is with a song you wrote to help deal with the death of your best friend, Andy Wood.
RIP Chris Cornell, you will forever be a true musical legend.