Remembering Chris Cornell, 5 Years Later

Sometimes it’s hard to drive around Seattle and not realize the ultramega mark Chris Cornell has left on his hometown. At least it is for me. Even for a city widely known for its ruthless tearing down and re-establishing its own history in the name of “progress” – think of larger, taller glass skyscrapers, as far as the eye could see – Chris’ fingerprints were everywhere.

Rolling down Leary Way in the old grounds of his childhood around Ballard, you’ll pass the Triangular Reciprocal Recording, where Soundgarden recorded their debut album Screaming life in 1987. Studio Litho, where they set their last record before breaking up, 1996 Down above, almost two decades later, just a few minutes up the street, across from the colossal statue of Vladimir Lenin. Ray’s Boathouse, where Chris worked as a young chef gutting fish to finance his rock star dreams is about 10 minutes in the other direction.

Across the sound of West Seattle, images of Cornell pop up everywhere. Most prominently, it is painted on the wall of Easy Street Records. Right next to him, memorialized on the brick is a similar piece of street art depicting his former roommate, and Mother Love Bone owner, Andrew Wood. Inside, the store is a veritable grunge rock museum, where you can find almost all of his records, vinyl and other stuff.

On 8th Avenue, there’s the stately Paramount Theater that Soundgarden rocked in 1992 for their popular “Motorvision” shows. Downtown, on 4th Avenue, you can peer through a dusty window and stare into the ruins of Bad Animals Studios, where he spent months, months honing the sound of his blockbuster album 1994 by the band. Super Unknown. Two blocks away, is the Moore Theater, where Soundgarden recorded their second EP, FOPP. The international headquarters of Sub Pop, the record label he helped legitimize all those years ago, is just a few dozen feet away.

Down on 2nd Ave in the alley is Black Dog Forge, where he, along with Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, both trained in the early ’90s. Located on 1st Avenue, is the Central Tavern, one of the oldest pubs. across the entire West Coast, and was the scene of dozens of Soundgarden gigs throughout the ’80s and ’90s. The band also used the upper floor as the headquarters of their private business for several years. The showbox where they reunited in 2010 as the Nuderagons is a few miles down the street, across from the world-famous Pike’s Place Market.

Statue of Chris Cornell
(Photo by Mat Hayward / Getty Images)

And finally, there’s his bronze statue placed right in front of the Museum of Popular Culture, just around the corner from the Space Needle, waving to passersby for eternity.

“His songs and vocals sparked the alternative rock scene and helped put Seattle on the map as one of the great music scene in the world,” declares the plaque around his feet. “Cornell’s work… has greatly influenced popular music and will continue to inspire future artists and bands for generations to come.”

Whatever your perception of the supernatural, it’s a fact that long after we’re gone, some parts of who we are inevitably remain after we’re gone. They can be physical reminders – a painting, a bronze bust, a well-placed photograph – but also have an emotional imprint that is much harder to quantify. A feeling. A collective memory. A tingling sensation when you listen to a particular song at the right time of day.

The awakening that Chris Cornell left behind is especially great because his impact on the world has been so immense. So was the shocking nature of his death. As much of the world went to sleep on the night of May 17, 2017, one of the greatest vocalists in rock history took to the stage at the Fox Theater in Detroit, doing what he does best; Treat thousands of cult fans with his unique gift. The next morning, he was gone.

For many people, myself included, tragedy is almost irreconcilable. For those who know him best – his family, his closest friends and many of his bandmates – that will be forever. Cornell was a man greater than life, in word and deed. He’s a 6’3″ high school student who has made himself a poet. A self-described music aficionado who has become one of the most exciting figures in an industry where fun is the currency of the world. A reclusive drummer who moved from the back of the stage to his lips and then beyond, all the while transforming himself into the perfect idea of ​​a rock and roll conductor’s form, sound, and action. .

Chris Cornell
(Credit: Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images)

“He’s a really good drummer,” Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil told me in 2018. “He doesn’t look like Matt. [Cameron] but he wrote wonderfully as a drummer. I think a lot should [bassist] Hiro [Yamamoto] and I entertained the idea of ​​inviting another singer so that Chris could continue drumming with us. But Chris really wanted to get up from behind the drum set. ”

Many in Seattle seemed to scoff as he ripped off his shirt night after night and plowed into the crowd during the ’80s. During a performance at the Center a few years ago Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic was on stage during a flashback between songs, when he called that particular move “The full Cornell”. Apparently, they used to bet on how long the shirt would last. As the locals joked, others around the world took notes, learning from the dynamic dark-haired driver just what was needed to keep the masses engaged.

But while anyone can buy a gym membership and do a few dives on stage, one thing that can’t be replicated from Cornell is his iconic, virtuoso voice. . It’s a unique instrument that stands out even among the wonderfully gifted artists that came along with him throughout the alt-rock era. Even more amazing was the countless ways he used it. Chris Cornell was not born a great singer. He had natural tools, but it took him years of hard work and practice to reach his full potential. But once he did, all bets were off.

I remember I was talking to someone once while writing my book, Total F*cking Godhead: Biography of Chris Cornell. They say they had trouble once trying to figure out *how* to sing a particular piece of music. They were confused. Consufused. Can’t nail it. Then a thought popped into their heads: “How can Chris Cornell sing this song?” Suddenly everything became clear. They know exactly what they have to do. Chris gave them the route.

There’s no lyrics on Earth that he couldn’t fill with heartbreaking emotion, contagious power, or sheer breathtaking electricity. His low-omen rumble seemed likely to drop to the depths of the ocean, before surging into the stratosphere like a roaring F-35 after a recently fired rocket. When Chris Cornell walked over to the microphone, everyone noticed.

Chris Cornell
(Source: Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

About four years ago, I was sitting with Kim Thayil backstage at Metro in Chicago, talking about Cornell. He made the comment that “he doesn’t bring many things, material things or relationships with him in his life. He’s a bit independent about that. He travels lightly.”

And it’s true.

Chris always moves on to the next thing, and then the next, and the next thing. Sub Pop for A&M Records. Life screams Super Unknown. Soundgarden to Audioslave. Hip-hop beats to solo acoustic touring. He is always looking. Always look around the next corner to find what interests him the most. And then he left.

But for the lightness of Chris’s passing through life, the legacy he left behind is still huge. It is in his children, who have absorbed his profession and transformed themselves into spectacular singers in their own right. It lies in the old haunts around town, and the memories of the musical conquests left. It was the hearts and minds of millions of fans who turned to his lyrics and tunes during times of difficulty, grief, and times of self-doubt. As long as his records remain, they will always be.

Chris Cornell may not be with us anymore, but he is always there. Remembering Chris Cornell, 5 Years Later

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