Thursday, May 18, 2017

RIP Chris Cornell "One (U2 Music with Metallica Lyrics)"

I had to be at work early today--7 a.m., for a special process that needed to be done.  As so happens when you need shut-eye, I instead woke up at 4:15 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep.  At 6, I finally got up, had a message on my phone that the power was down at work and texted my boss on how we were going to proceed.  At the end of our conversation, I took one of my dogs out, came back in, and saw my phone flashing.  She had typed one more message, "Chris Cornell died?"

I replied, "F#*@ what?"

She knew how much he meant to me.

I had last seen Chris play 10 months ago.  He was as fantastic and moving as always.  Cool, both in control and at ease in his banter, singing, and playing.  It was the sixth, and now I know my last, time I saw him in concert.  The first was on the last tour of Soundgarden in the '97.  They opened for the grandfather of grunge, Neil Young.

The next time wasn't until April 11, 2007 at the Metro in Chicago.  It ranks as my #1 concert experience...and let me tell you, I've been to a lot.  I had begged so many people to go with me (can you believe this), and FINALLY my friend Andrea said she'd go.  The concert was sold out, but we got some tickets from a StubHub type place.  I remember when she sent me an email that contained a copy of the ticket.  I swooned.  I printed out that email and carried it around with me in my wallet.  I loved his voice, his music, his looks, his attitude.  I just couldn't believe I was going. Chris had been through Audioslave by then, and he was touring as a solo act.  His hair was short at that time, really showing off his gorgeous face.

I remember what I wore, how my hair was cut, and that it was raining that night.  I was standing next to a guy who had driven up from Champaign from the University of Illinois.  He had a cold, but he was there.  As we stood waiting for him to come out, my heart was pounding, and I felt myself getting jelly legs!  I turned to my friend and said, "I have to go!"  I just was overcome with the moment.  She said, "Turn around, you're not going anywhere."  And I turned around, and one minute later he came out, and cooly said, "How ya' doin'?"

We were only about 10 feet from the stage, and he could survey the crowd easily.  And at one point, truly, he stared right at me with those blue piercing eyes.  I'm sure he held everyone's gaze at some point, but at that moment it was me, and I couldn't breathe.

The most memorable moment was when he sang his version of Michael Jackson's, "Billy Jean."  It was slowed down into a soulful groove and then crescendoed into his sexy wail at just the time the lights flashed an guitars wailed.  I will never forget that moment.  It was one of those times where I was fully IN it, but also was outside of myself with this knowledge of what I was experiencing.  It was out-of-body is all I can say.  You don't get transported like that at every concert.  Truly, there's just a handful.

I saw him 2 more times that year--once when he stripped his sweaty shirt off, and that was a moment we didn't forget.

But let me make it clear--he had physical beauty, yes, but it was that voice...that distinctive voice--hard-edged but tender and feeling, too--that was the true draw.  Henry Rollins once said that Chris Cornell's voice could peel paint off of a wall.  But it was the soulful side of his slower songs and acoustic performances--powerful, painful, rough-edged, expressive--that was the true draw.  He made you feel it.  Robert Plant of Led Zepplin had that influence of the blues mixed in with rock mixed with Middle Eastern music.  He was bluesy, hard and soft.  That was Chris Cornell.

The strangest thing is that I had been listening to Chris nonstop over the last week.  I had been painting late at night, especially last weekend, and I had Chris playing on YouTube.  I love his combination of the music from U2's "One" and the lyrics of Metallica's "One."  Over and over I played it, along with his version of Prince's, "Nothing Compares 2 U" and Whitney Houston's/Dolly Parton's, "I Will Always Love You."  I listened to Soundgarden's, "Fell on Black Days," and Audioslave's, "Getaway Car."  I always loved "Sunshower" from the movie "Great Expectations" etc.  I could list this on and on.  I'm listening to the latter right now, and my heart is in my throat, because he is gone.  He really is gone.

Maybe that powerfully pained voice had to come from a place of some desperation/depression.  I wouldn't have thought Chris would kill himself.  He had been through so many suicides of friends and contemporaries in his life (e.g., Andy Wood--from Mother Love Bone which caused him to form the group Temple of the Dog and which just recently reformed and toured; Layne Stanley; Kurt Cobain, etc.)  No one knows, though, the depth of someone's pain.  There's an article that states him as saying, "it's harder to get help the more famous you are."  I get it.  You're in the public eye.  You supposedly have everything you could ever want.  That's the worst part of depression.  You SHOULD feel o.k. with all you have.  And when you don't, where do you turn, what do you strive for?  What gives you the drive to put one foot in front of the other when you're in pain?

I knew he loved his second wife and children deeply.  I've watched him carrying his daughter Toni around in videos and at concerts since she was a baby.  She looks just like him and has a beautiful voice as well.  He had to be in so much anguish to be driven to what happened last night.

I've watched videos of his last performance in Detroit, and he looks weary, exhausted.  The songs seem very slowed down.  I read somewhere that some insiders thought he had relapsed with alcohol.  He had been sober for about 14 years.  But this is all supposition--you want to know why now, just like with Prince--another irreplaceable voice.  All I know is, he could not have been in his right mind.  Was he weary from playing the same songs after 25 years?  Was the pressure, and inability to get out of something--a tour--pressures from the music industry just too much?  I don't know, and we probably won't.

But Chris, your talent, your voice, we ache for you, and we are crushed.  God bless you.

From 7/11/16 - the last time I saw Chris in concert.

Some of the better articles on Chris:

Chris Cornell's Final Red Carpet with Family
LATimes 1991 article w/Chris Cornell on making Badmotorfinger
The one below is something I found after I original blogpost.  The LA Times writer wrote the same thing I did, comparing Chris and Robert Plant and Mideastern Influence.  I guess I heard the same thing they did:
Chris Cornell-A generation lost its Robert Plant
LA Times Obit Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell Interviews Jimmy Page, Part 1

1 comment:

  1. OK, I'm lame. I knew some of his music, but not him by name. Sad, sad news. Going to check your your links tomorrow. And more of his music and life. U2 and Metallica??? What the!! Beyond cool.
    I heard a Loretta Lynn song on the radio today, and thought OH no! But nothing was said, and she is apparently going to make a full recovery. Why is it the loss of our music makers affect us so deeply? Don't answer. Hope you have a better one tomorrow... :/