On Wednesday night, the world experienced the tragic loss of the 90s grunge legend Chris Cornell.
If you are a kid of the 90s, Chris Cornell and his grunge band Soundgarden wrote much of the soundtrack of your youth. The algorithmic classic metal band rock of the 80s met its deserved death with the alternative grunge music revolution of the 90s.
Cornell was a voice for a generation repulsed by the materialistic “greed is good” generation of the 80s. The 80s “yuppies” were an emotionless generation that valued things more than souls. And Cornell’s sensitive soul roared in every song he sang. Right till the end.
Shocking and unexpected
Soundgarden was mid-tour and had just played their Detroit show. Cornell’s wife Vicky suspected something was amiss when he was slurring his words as he came off stage. In a recent statement, she claims her husband had been struggling with addiction to prescription drugs.
Later that night, Cornell was found hanging in his hotel bathroom. Sadly, this was an hour after he had admitted to his wife that he had taken a few extra anxiety meds than his prescription recommended. Vicky believes he could have only been under the delusion of the effects of the medication, to go through with such an irrational act. Cornell is survived by his wife, and son Christopher and daughters Toni and Lillian.
The legacy of the 90s grunge rock legends
There comes a time in every generation’s lives that their heroes start to die, one by one. However, for recent generations, these deaths seem to come too soon. In 94, the world reeled with the news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Other contemporaries of Cornell’s such as Andrew Wood, Layne Staley and Scott Weiland succumbed to drug overdoses.
However, like Cobain, Cornell was a man of extreme sensitivity. It wasn’t rock and roll excesses that took them; it was the pain from what many experience as a dark world. The deep pain that connects so many millions of fans to the music they created.
Cornell’s extensive career began in 1984 with the formation of Soundgarden with his friends Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto. By 1990 they had earned their first Grammy nomination. They shared a supreme joint reign within the Seattle grunge scene with bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.
Commercial success came to the group in 1991 with the release of the album Badmotorfinger. Notable favorites from that album were Jesus Christ Pose and Rusty Cage.
The now late great Johnny Cash would eventually cover Rusty Cage on his album Unchained, in 96. In 92 they again received a Grammy nomination for this album.
In 94 their album Superunknown immediately went to number one the day it debuted in March that year. Probably their most memorable song of all, Blackhole Sun, threw the band into the international scene. The album went quintuple platinum at home in the US, triple platinum in Canada, and gold in Sweden, the UK, and the Netherlands.
The band disbanded in 1997. However, Soundgarden would reform in 2010. Obviously, the band was on tour at the time of Cornell’s death.
Solo Success and Audioslave
Cornell went on to have a very successful solo career where he released four albums, including one compilation. His magnetic vocals on the single Can’t Change Me saw him receive a further Grammy nomination.
Later he received the honor of collaborating on the opening theme song for the James Bond movie Casino Royale. Titled You Know My Name, it was nominated for many awards and won a Satelite Award in 2006.
From 2001 to 2007 Cornell replaced Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine, and the line up changed the band name to Audioslave. Their eponymous debut album reached triple platinum at home in the US and contained the huge hits Show Me How to Live and Like a Stone.
Like a match made in heaven, critics praised the collaboration and the second album Out of Exile immediately shot to number one in the charts in 2005. Over time it reached platinum. The strength of the band was often credited to Cornell being sober and without any medications during that period.
Outpouring of grief
Since the news of Cornell’s death was released, the outpouring of grief has been palpable. Fans lost a real musical hero who had an almost psychic ability within his lyrics to read their souls. Matt Cameron, the drummer of Soundgarden, painfully commented how his dark knight was now gone.
Music legends such as Jimmy Page, Billy Idol, Elton John and Dave Navarro tweeted out their disbelief and respects to Cornell upon hearing the news. Many bands covered Cornell’s songs during their concerts out of honor for his beautiful memory.
Most poignant of all was his fellow Audioslave bandmate Tom Morello, who penned a heartbreaking poem to Cornell on Instagram that began with: “You’re a prince, you’re a snare, you’re a shadow“.
We send deepest condolences to Cornell’s wife and young children, who now have to somehow carry on living after their grave loss.