I spent over an hour walking around in the drizzle talking to my friend Cindy about Chris Cornell today. I had to--to mourn with her, discuss him. She really is the only friend I have who knows Chris (from afar of course) and his music the way I do. She and I saw Chris twice together, once when Chris was supporting his "Scream" album and the last time 10 months ago.
We talked about how rare it is to even have a TRUE artist such as Chris or Prince or Michael Jackson. How when they are lost, who do you look to? I said to her, and he was smart. He wasn't someone looking for the quick fix. He was someone who sat in his basement with a stack of Beatles albums and memorized them. Prince studied James Brown and Sly Stone. These are people who knew a history of rock music, blues, funk, punk, so there were layers of influence to them. I said it's like cooking. You're supposed to season all the components of a dish as you go along to coax all the nuances of flavor to come out. You don't just sprinkle a little salt on at the end and expect it to have any complex depth to it. Chris had the Beatles in him, and The Stones and Led Zeppelin, but also Black Sabbath and Elvis Costello. When you stir that all together, along with true emotion, intelligence, and vocal skill, well that's how a superstar comes along rather than someone just looking to lay down a beat track with two 7-word verses that loop over and over again. Ugh.
Now, prior to that conversation earlier this afternoon, I woke up at 1:00 a.m. unable to breathe. I felt a tightness in my chest and had to get my inhaler to get through. But in that eerie early hour, as soon as my mind and eyes opened, I thought of Chris. I couldn't go back to sleep so from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m., I searched for more clues and read more articles and watched more videos (something I had been doing every moment since hearing the news and while not at work). The unreality of a world without him is starting to feel real. I had to try to get that through to my head and heart.
Here's some worthwhile finds. Please check out the following if you, like me, are in mourning.
In no particular order:
It makes sense to me that there was something else going on with Chris that motivated him to "commit suicide." Read his wife, Vicky's statement re: the possible influence of the drug Activan in his system in Spin Magazine's article here.
Here's a link to Mark McGrath (from the group Sugar Ray) on "The Woody Show." It's totally worth listening to the whole thing, but here is a right on the head quote from Mark that sums up why we feel so sad when a beloved singer dies:
"You loose someone of that magnitude, it takes awhile to resonate. When you lose someone like Prince, you lose a Scott Weiland, you lose a Chris Cornell, I think it takes awhile for all of us to mourn the loss. Music is super personal, too. You internalize music and it becomes a family member if you're really that vested in music & it means that much to you. It's like losing...you feel almost like a family loss. To loose that, it hurts, it's tough, it's very tough."
This Washington Post article of the history of Soundgarden and of Cornell's vow to make it as an artist doing original music no matter what it took, even if he/they were never a 'success' is excellent.
Here's a very short clip from "American Masters" on Chris Cornell discussing the camaraderie of the bands in Seattle--how they inspired one another, and the development of Temple of the Dog.
The Chicago Tribune's article on how Eddie Vedder is the last grunge frontman still standing. There is a great point made in the article where rock critic Steven Hyden is quoted from his book, "Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me" as saying:
"By the early aughts Pearl Jam was actively subsuming the operatic emotionalism of their more popular early records in order to cater to hard-core loyalists," Hyden wrote. "The way Vedder purposely piloted Pearl Jam toward a significantly smaller audience is still remarkable. Other than Radiohead, no rock band has ever been more deliberate about ferreting out precisely the people it wanted to care about its music."
This article from Variety is a really great one and a good rock history lesson of how Soundgarden paved the way for all the Pacific Northwest bands, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains (and Stone Temple Pilots by association) who followed. Note this point which Jem Aswad, Senior Music Editor, makes:
"But Cornell was a true original in his own right. And the sound and culture of the 1990s would not have been what it was without him or Soundgarden, who cut the path that so many followed."
Here's Charles R. Cross from "Music from NPR," writing on how Chris was Grunge's "True Seattle Son" Charles knew Chris Cornell personally--read his perspective on how the band had been together for 10 years before it broke through--the slow burn to success.
From Heavy's Chris Bucher, the police report that outlined the timing after the concert, his last call to his wife, and what went down. I had to read that...find that. I still had the thought, does anyone question if this was a murder? I pieced several different articles together, and it seems the band left in shuttle bus from the theater at 11:25 p.m. Chris' body guard was in his room with him around 11:35; Chris spoke to his wife Vicky at 11:40 p.m. and by midnight he was dead. I had to know this...make sense of that span of time. It still is unbelievable.
I wrote in my previous blog post yesterday that I had watched 3 clips of his final concert, and Chris didn't seem right. He seemed to be moving slowly--a little strangely to me. His vocals weren't as "on" as normally. I thought he looked exhausted. Somewhere else--on YouTube--someone wrote that he seemed "low energy." This well-articulated article from the Detroit Free Press, by Ashley Zlatopolsky, "Chris Cornell's final performance: Something Clearly Wasn't Right, corroborates my thoughts that Chris wasn't the Chris I was used to seeing.
By the way, here's a link to the entire final concert. I've listed the set list at the bottom of this page.
Here's Alexis Sottile's Rolling Stone Magazine article on Cameron Crowe and the 25th anniversary of the movie, "Singles." He really has wonderful stories of the musical genius and unbelievable creativity of Cornell as well as his impressions of living in the midst of the development of the Seattle scene. Please read it so you can put into context this quote:
"And holy shit, this is Chris Cornell, as Cliff Poncier, recording all of these songs, with lyrics, and total creative vision, and he has recorded the entire fake, solo cassette. And it's fantastic. And "Seasons" comes on. And you just can't help but go, "Wow." This is a guy who we've only known in Soundgarden. And of course he's incredibly creative, but who's heard him like this? And we got to use "Seasons" on the soundtrack, and Chris did some of the score. And some of the unreleased score is on the new version of the album."
Here's Pete Thorn, his guitarist who supported him through his "Carry On" tour and "Scream" tour. I saw his play during both of those tours. He relates poignant memories of playing with Chris, and describes what kind of honorable, supportive, creative, strong person and friend he was. If you look at the time it's says 37 minutes and you'll think, I'll never listen to all of that. But you will. It will break your heart a little more though.
Detroit, MI, 5/17/17 Set List
Black Hole Sun
Day I Tried to Live
Fell on Black Days
A Thousand Days Before
Burden in My Hand
Blow Up the Outside World
Jesus Christ Pose
Beyond the Wheel
Slaves and Bulldozers interspersed with lyrics from Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying"