Today’s fanpost is different because today is different. For those who haven’t seen the news, Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, Audioslave, and Temple of the Dog, died yesterday. You can read more about it and him here.
Lena offered her own Tumblr post for sharing, and there’s a bit of a mourning thread that’s developed on the previous regular DGC post, but feel free to offer your thoughts here.
I’d planned to do a post of live cover performances today, and Cornell’s take on “Billie Jean” was on my list. Instead, I offer three acoustic performances by Chris from various times in his career.
The first was originally performed by Mad Season, fronted by Layne Staley, and which included Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Temple of the Dog. The second was written by Prince, recorded by Sinead O’Connor, and covered by dozens of musicians in the wake of Prince’s death. Cornell’s version predates that, and, at the time, was simply a beautiful cover. Today, it feels much heavier to me. The third song was initially written and performed by Chris Cornell as part of Temple of the Dog and written in tribute to Andrew Wood, another musician fundamental to forming the grunge scene in Seattle.
I keep tearing up, today.
Just now I got an email from a former yoga student who I haven’t seen in in years, asking me if I was okay, because he could remember how much I loved Chris.
I am wearing my ‘no one sings like you anymore’ t-shirt today. Appropriate.
Of all the grunge bands I’ve loved, Soundgarden is the one that I listen to most 25 years down the road.
This one isn’t hitting me the way Bowie did. Losing Bowie was like losing a piece of my soul I didn’t know I needed, like losing a god who wasn’t supposed to be able to die. Chris Cornell… hits really close to home. You know he was only a couple of years older than me. We’re from basically the same generation of musicians and we had a lot of similar experiences. I identified with him in so many ways.
Trying to make sense of it. It strikes me hard that he was on the road when he hung himself. That he had taken his anti-anxiety meds–which were supposed to help him–but maybe took too many. That he was alone, that his wife was at home. She was worried about him after talking to him and sent a friend to check on him… who found him dead.
It gives me flashbacks to Ziggy. It gives me flashbacks to myself. “But we were young and stupid” is something I tell myself often these days. But Chris Cornell was neither young nor stupid. What was going through his mind? How long had he contemplated doing it? What demons haunted him? What was missing from his life that left him vulnerable to such doubt?
I don’t know the answers to those questions for Chris Cornell. I do know it’s crucial to answer those last two questions for one’s self. It took me a long time to slay my demons, or to at least chop them down to a manageable size. What’s scary is from the outside it looked like Chris really had beat his demons. He spoke so articulately about music, about song writing, about fame, and even about depression and pain, that it gave the illusion that he had it all under control.
I can’t help but compare him to Kurt. Who was also my age. (Shit, we’re exactly a year apart.) I don’t think Kurt ever got to enjoy his fame or success. He was in near-constant physical pain from his stomach problems and was a tormented soul in a lot of ways that he never had a chance to outgrow. In my mind Chris Cornell was his opposite, the one who beat his demons instead of succumbing to them. Being wrong about that almost makes me feel like I’m somehow responsible for it, like all of us who thought he was okay somehow kept him from getting help. I know that’s not true, but that’s how hard it is to process. I didn’t even know him and I feel guilt over it.
You may have noticed that recent chapters have an undercurrent of me needing a ton of help from the people in my life just to make it through each day, and how hard it was for me to accept that help. I think I’ve gotten better about it, but what if I didn’t?
What I picture when I think of Chris Cornell, alone in a hotel, taking his anti-anxiety meds, calling his wife, and then making the decision to end himself… I can’t place the blame on him at all, actually. Or on the people around him. I place the blame on the craven, greedy politicians who have decided the rest of us should die in wars and for-profit prisons and without health care and without safe food or water while their corporate masters reap huge profits and tax breaks. They’re the ones who have created a world of doubt, who want to pretend the polar ice isn’t melting, that we don’t need vaccines. To them the only thing to fear is people who are different from them, whether that’s trans people in bathrooms or suicide bombers from some other part of the world.
If there’s anyone to blame, it’s them. That’s the only way I can accept his death: as a casualty in the war that we have to win. I could be completely wrong. It could just be too many Ativan triggered self-harm, a known side-effect. But it wasn’t just one thing that “caused” it–it was all of them together creating the perfect storm.
Rest in peace, my brother. Your fight is over. Ours is just begun.