It’s odd that we mourn people we never met, but this morning I was saddened to hear that Chris Cornell, the singer and songwriter best known for fronting the grunge band Soundgarden, has passed away.
There is no replacing Cornell, and not just because we have already said premature goodbyes to his grunge peers Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, and Scott Weiland. Despite sharing their genre Cornell didn’t sound much like any of them, with a voice more soulful and a very different sense of melody.
Perhaps Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” best captures what the man was capable of:
But what always impressed me most about Cornell is the wide range of musical situations he thrived in. In the early 1990s he released an album with a band called Temple of the Dog — which was amazing despite the fact that the other guys would go on to form Pearl Jam. When Soundgarden broke up around the turn of the century, he joined up with former members of the leftist rap-metal group Rage against the Machine, and they released a string of three great albums as Audioslave. His various solo efforts are criminally underrated — I enjoy even Scream, his widely pilloried collaboration with pop producer Timbaland — and when the guitarist Slash (of Guns N’ Roses fame) released an album where a different singer handled the vocals on each track, Cornell’s contribution was far and away the most memorable:
He died at the age of 52, far too soon. R.I.P.