Thursday, May 18, 2017

In Honor of Our Friend, Chris Cornell

Thank you, to guest blogger, E.H. Ruddock, for capturing the feelings of a community in such an honest and personal way. 

"Every word I said is what I mean. Everything I gave is what I need.” - Slaves & Bulldozers, Soundgarden

Before I get into boring you all with my personal experiences with Chris Cornell, I’d like to just point out the irony, or at least sad coincidences, in the lyric above, from my favorite Soundgarden song. Chris Cornell could sing words in a way that always made you feel them, believe them. You know he meant them. He loved music, the music scene, and everything that came with it, and gave so much to music. Sadly, it seems as though he needed something back, someone to give him an inspiration which ultimately was lacking when he made the decision to take his own life yesterday.

When I was in sixth grade, my father started taking me to heavy metal concerts. Ozzy, Metallica, AC/DC, Judas Priest, the list goes on. By the time I was in my late teens, I was searching for something more. Many of my friends thought I was cool only because I had a “cool dad” who took me to concerts. So I started looking, listening, for something different. It took a while as growing up in small town Pennsylvania had many disadvantages for finding new music. Then one day, a friend of my younger brother came to our house and played this song called “Slaves and Bulldozers”. I asked him to play it again, as I wasn’t sure what I had just heard. It was heavy, which I clearly liked, but the singing made me feel something. Like the singer was telling me a story, personally. I asked who it was, and he said “some band named Soundgarden”. I spent the next week or so figuring out how to get my hands on any Soundgarden music.

Without going into too much detail, I found them. Then I found more music coming from the scene over the next few years. Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Temple of the Dog, you get the point. As I heavily got into Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, I always looked back at my first Soundgarden cassette as my bridge from my heavy metal youth into my grunge young adulthood. Soundgarden disbanded, but anything I had with Chris Cornell’s voice on it stayed in constant rotation.

As years passed, it was clear this guy just loved music. From his solo work, to guest appearances, to interviews about his music and the 90’s Seattle music scene. He loved it. And anytime he would perform, or even talk about music, it would show. During an interview he did for the Pearl Jam Twenty movie, he was speaking about the first time he heard Mike McCready play guitar. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something like “that guy plays infected”, referring to the places deep down Mike could draw from while playing some of his solos. Coincidentally, that is how I felt when I heard Cornell sing. He drew from places that many of us would rather not go in order to project raw emotion into his singing. I don’t think there is ever a time that I heard him singing that I didn’t think to myself “damn this guy is insane”.

Last year I had the honor of seeing Temple of the Dog live in San Francisco. They performed one of my favorite Cornell songs, “Seasons”. Two different lyrics from that mean so much to me regarding my Cornell fandom. The first, “Could you crawl into my world And take me worlds away”, it is exactly the type of feelings that were invoked when I would listen to Cornell sing. And sadly, the other lyric from the song, “And I'm lost, behind Words I'll never find. And I'm left behind, As seasons roll on by”hit much harder today as we learn the cause of his death, and what he may have been going through or suffering from that few probably knew about until it was too late.

We’ve lost many from this genre of music, Andy, Kurt, Layne, Scott, Chris, and others. But this one in particular hits on a deeper personal level for the connection I’ll always have to him for helping me discover and explore music on a whole different level. I’m done dragging on about this for you, I just wanted to share what Cornell meant to me personally and I know he influenced many of you reading this in similar or completely different ways. I’d love to hear your stories as well.