Andy Wood. Kurt Cobain. Layne Staley. A list that goes on as far as you care to look but the passing of Chris Cornell is so much more than another in the succession of the seemingly inevitable deaths of those who emerged from the ’90s grunge scene. The loss of Cornell is more than one man’s death; this loss is a crack in the foundation of what allowed all of them to matter.
Cornell, and Soundgarden, responded to being the first Seattle grunge band signed to a major label in a way that only the leaders of that scene could; they took the money, paid their rent and let the others crash in industry-funded apartments. Others who included not only friends, but members of fledgling local bands and out of towners who would go on to become iconic parts of the landscape, such as Mother Love Bone, and sign to labels like Sub-Pop. The list of people who slept on Chris’ floor casually features names like Eddie Vedder.
Cornell, and Soundgarden, reintroduced gritty rawness, sweat and sex into rock, while being technically proficient and heavy enough to satisfy the needs of thrash and metal purists at the same time. But to speak of rawness is to forget Cornell’s lyrical depth, and ability to craft slow burning tracks, like “Blow Up The Outside World”, or even his strength in concession, to allow just the right degree of pop-sensibility, a la “Black Hole Sun”.
Some might say his solo work is better forgotten (“Scream” – his Timberland-produced venture comes to mind), but his consistency both before and after these departures suggested a desire to experiment more than a loss of ability or integrity.
Soundgarden, Andy Wood tribute Temple of the Dog, his work with a Zac De La Rocha-less Rage in Audioslave, his solo work in Casino Royale and the never-criticised reformation of Soundgarden, helped a generation to remember why we buy overdrive pedals, why we get covered in sweat and beer at a gig and why nothing seems to punch harder than a screaming poet in front of a stack of Marshalls.
And that’s all without mentioning that four octave voice.
“I did not want to fight
I did not want to kill
I wanted to be real
I wanted to believe that I was not the only one alive”
Words by Jordan Harley, a music lover with Seattle in his blood.