I don’t recall the exact minute, hour, or even the day when I first knew of Chris Cornell, but I do remember the first time I heard Soundgarden sing Black Hole Sun and The Day I Tried To Live. I was blown away! Even though Superunknown was the band’s 4th album, to me they were previously nonexistent until its release. I had grown up listening mostly to hair metal in the 1980s, then found my way into the early stages of alternative rock in the late 1980s. Ultimately however, in the early 1990s, it was Grunge that claimed me and spoke to me in ways no other genre of music ever had before. Not only did the distorted or even dirty sound of grunge appeal to me, but the darker lyrical topics spoke to me at a time in my life when I simply didn’t have a place.
Everybody is influenced by someone.
– Chris Cornell
Fast forward to 2002 and the announcement of the formation of former Rage Against the Machine band members along with former lead singer from Soundgarden to form Audioslave. My interest was peaked. I knew Rage Against the Machine well as I listened to them often in the early 2000s. I also knew Soundgarden as an incredible grunge band, but still I had never thought much about their lead singer, until I heard Audioslave. Wow. I’m not sure if it was the more funky, throwback style that Audioslave brought, with a much needed freshness in the industry at the time or simply that the concept of the band was so intriguing, but Cornell shined in my eyes, even outshined. I was blown away! In the words of Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello, their new sound was “transcendent”.
In the early 2000s, I was quite simply struggling with life. Bad decision making, coupled with a lack of life skills that had not been taught to me earlier in life, in addition to being a wild twenty-something year old and things tended to get out of hand quickly. Audioslave provided me with a means of escape from all that. It was something I could get lost in for hours at a time. It all just really worked for me and the timing couldn’t have been better.
I looked forward to decades of Audioslave, and even though we only got 3 albums from them, I feel blessed to have learned who Chris Cornell was and to have the opportunity to follow him in his solo career that included 4 additional albums, none of which came close to matching that debut Audioslave album, but all of which had some incredible songs and of course his unfathomable vocals. Cornell even produced a pop album titled Scream, that in my opinion was actually pretty awesome. I listened to it quite often, along with Temple of the Dog, when my middle child was going through chemotherapy as a baby. Those albums provided me with a temporary escape from reality while I lied on an uncomfortable hospital couch as our child fought cancer in a hospital bed.
I spent a lot of my time in the 2000s riding motocross bikes at my uncle’s house in Mississippi. Before and after rides we would hang out in his shop and listen to Audioslave. We listened to a few other artists as well, but Audioslave always provided us with a morale boost we couldn’t explain. We would also take trips to Atlanta, Georgia, to watch the pro Supercross races, and of course we would listen to Audioslave the whole way there and back.
Strangely enough, I didn’t discover Temple of the Dog until after I had immersed myself in Audioslave, even though the album was released in 1991! Yes, very odd I agree, but better late than never as they say. Anyway, WOW! I don’t know of any other album that’s ever brought so many tears to my eyes. Andrew Wood may have reached down and picked the crowd up, but this album reached into my soul and picked me up. What an amazing tribute to a mysterious and scarcely known artist and friend to these Seattle guys, not to mention the cherry on top that was Eddie Vedder. I’m still not sure how we didn’t have more duets with Cornell and Vedder. For me, it doesn’t get better than that.
I heard a person, I heard a real person and not a person trying to sound like somebody else. I hadn’t met him, but he was in there.
– Chris Cornell on a young Eddie Vedder
Chris Cornell became something in my life that I always expected to be there. I always expected a new album every few years. I always expected great interviews full of honesty, intensity, and professionalism. I always expected greatness. I always expected him to touch me with his music. Sometimes in life we blindly forget that tomorrow is not promised for us or for others we find interest in, then something happens and a special piece of you is gone. On May 17, 2017, Chris Cornell passed away in a Detroit, MI hotel room. Cornell had apparently battled addiction throughout his life, starting at an early age. The night he died he told his wife that he had taken too much Ativan, which is a drug used for anxiety, a highly underrated disorder in my opinion. We won’t know the “why” surrounding his death until we say hello to Heaven, but his music will forever resonate in our minds in a powerful way.
So, I’m writing this article to honor Chris Cornell. We’ve lost too many of our great “Grunge era” artists. Wood, Weiland, Staley, Cobain, Sargent, Starr, Melvoin, among others, are all gone. Now, Cornell is gone as well. This one, for me, leaves a significant scar, but I’m ever grateful for what he left with us. His music! I constantly hear debates about which songs people favor the most in Cornell’s collection, but I believe songs touch people in very unique, very personal, and very different ways, so I will list my 25 favorite Chris Cornell songs in descending order. Why 25 songs? Because 10 or 15 songs isn’t enough. A list of 25 songs probably doesn’t truly do justice to the greatness of his work either, but these are the songs that touched me more deeply than the others. If you don’t recognize a song on this list, I implore you to find a comfortable couch in your favorite coffee shop and listen to it a few times and see if it touches your soul like it has mine.
Music is powerful and it does powerful things to us, so let it in and let it out and don’t be afraid to be affected by it.
RIP Chris Cornell ( July 20, 1964 – May 18, 2017 )
25. Arms Around Your Love – Carry On by Chris Cornell
24. Wooden Jesus – Temple of the Dog by Temple of the Dog
23. Moth – Revelations by Audioslave
22. Shape Of Things To Come – Revelations by Audioslave
21. Ground Zero – Scream by Chris Cornell
20. When I’m Down – Euphoria Morning by Chris Cornell
19. Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart – Higher Truth by Chris Cornell
18. Wide Awake – Revelations by Audioslave
17. Times Of Trouble – Temple of the Dog by Temple of the Dog
16. The Last Remaining Light – Audioslave by Audioslave
15. Outshined – Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden
14. Set It Off – Audioslave by Audioslave
13. You Know My Name – Carry On by Chris Cornell
12. Doesn’t Remind Me – Out of Exile by Audioslave
11. Light My Way – Audioslave by Audioslave
10. Hypnotize – Audioslave by Audioslave
9. What You Are – Audioslave by Audioslave
8. Rusty Cage – Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden
7. Hunger Strike – Temple of the Dog by Temple of the Dog
6. Shadow on the Sun – Audioslave by Audioslave
5. Black Hole Sun – Superunknown by Soundgarden
4. Say Hello To Heaven – Temple of the Dog by Temple of the Dog
3. Be Yourself – Out of Exile by Audioslave
2. The Day I Tried to Live – Superunknown by Soundgarden
1. Reach Down – Temple of the Dog by Temple of the Dog