This morning I woke up to the news that one of my heroes died.
I didn't visibly worship Chris Cornell the same way I have people like Slash, Carrie Fisher, or Ann Wilson. I actually know very little about Cornell, but he certainly made more of an impact on me than most. I watched him emerge as a raw vocal talent on Soundgarden's Louder than Love and then morph into who I consider to be the greatest rock vocalist of my generation.
The first time I listened to Badmotorfinger, his voice devastated me - in the best possible way and has captivated me ever since. To this day, when no one is looking I'll blast "Slaves and Bulldozers," and screech it at the top of my lungs, trying to emulate that searing voice but failing miserably. When I was 17 and working at the Ralphs grocery store in San Dimas, I willingly went into the far corners of the vast parking lot to retrieve carts because it meant I could loudly sing "Call Me a Dog" without anyone hearing. The one car accident I've been in while behind the wheel (knock on wood), occurred while I was listening to an acoustic version of "Like Suicide." I swore up and down that the radio was not the reason I didn't hear that ambulance coming -- but yeah, I may have been a little distracted while singing along with Chris.
Badmotorfinger (along with Appetite for Destruction), set a perfect backdrop for my high school angst. Temple of the Dog comforted my high school depression. Superunknown and Down on the Upside tempered the restlessness of college. Cornell's solo album Euphoria Mourning was the soundtrack of my confused post-college existence. No, I never went over the top crazy with idol worship, but Chris Cornell has always been a reliable ally.
I only saw Chris Cornell live twice. I went to a Soundgarden concert at the Olympic Auditorium on the Superunknown tour, and attended a solo show at the Wiltern. The main thing I remember about the Wiltern is my confused stoner cousin repeatedly screaming out "play 'Rusty Cage' or something!" But the guttural screams of "Slaves and Bulldozers" that filled the Olympic are still ringing in my head some two decades later.
Some of the early reports indicate his death may be a suicide, and it pains me to think of anyone feeling that hopeless. It especially hurts to know that someone who has given me so much comfort for almost 30 years could not find the same.
Rest in Peace, and thank you.