Right now I shouldn’t be writing these words down for you. It doesn’t makes sense. In fact nothing about the night of May 17th, 2017, seems to make much sense in hind site. Chris Cornell, lead vocalist and guitarist of Soundgarden and super group Audioslave took his own life that night. We may very well never know the whys and whats of it all, however, that doesn’t change the fact that the man is forever gone, lost to the hallows of dead rock stars.
For some reason the heavy hitter bands of the grunge era, all save one, seem to have lost someone to self-inflicted, unnaturally early deaths. Some of the greatest musical genius of that generation is now collectively part of the same, sad group. Whatever demons pursued Chris Cornell it is not for us to judge him; perhaps it was feelings of judgement that contributed to the weighing down of his fragile soul. His lyrics often detailed his own struggles with hard times: think “Fell on Black Days”, and the unfortunately named “Just Like Suicide” or “Pretty Noose”. These reflect commonly recurring themes in his prolific life that seem to portray the opposite of what we think a rock star is living from day to day.
Many of Cornell’s songs were dark and gloomy, something many felt was part of the Seattle culture. Arguably, I would say his despair ridden songwriting was likely fueled by his own real life issues, whatever they were, and not by the atmosphere of his native city. Many artists try to slay the beasts that chase them through their songwriting and it seems Chris Cornell was no different. He was just a human being after all, with all the frailties and vulnerabilities anyone else might have. I think sometimes we lose site of these sorts of things when we hear that a “rock star” has committed suicide, simply because they have “more”.
I’m old enough to remember walking into a music store a few moments before a lesson, ironically to buy a book of Soundgarden tabs in 1994. I was informed by the proprietor that the radio had just announced Kurt Cobain’s body had been found and that he was deceased. I remember not really feeling too much. It was shocking yes, but as a young man, rock stars weren’t regular people to me. I had learned to disassociate them from reality in my mind I suppose, something many people I fear suffer from now.
At the root of this tragic loss, the loss of a man who wrote so many songs that countless folks call “favourite”, is mental health. Unchecked mental health issues will rip away the people we love from this world. I’m certain Chris Cornell was loved by his wife and children, friends and family and adored by millions of fans the world over who are left wondering “what now?” in the wake of this tragedy.
Hopefully the lesson is well learned because the price was unfair. Hopefully the greater good that can be borne from this passing is that people will start to care about each other more. To reach out to someone you see hurting instead of waiting for them to reach out to you. Maybe then this way of seeking release might be turned to a chance to seek relief instead. Chris Cornell will be sorely missed but never forgotten so long as we, the public who witnessed his untimely death, try and help others in the aftermath of his personal crisis.
Rest in peace Chris, you’ve earned it.
“Smooth like a whisper, she knows love heals all wounds with time. Now it seems like too much love is never enough. You better seek out another road, cause this one has ended abrupt. Say hello to heaven.”