As evidence emerges that the death of Chris Cornell — the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave — was found dead in Detroit, MI as a result of an apparent suicide, it’s necessary — as part of the increasing salvo against the blow of this great singer’s loss — to remember, not how he died, but how he lived.
In his lifetime, Cornell earned a great deal of both respect and accolades during his tenure with these two influential bands. To say that his loss is devastating to the rock community — and to the music community at large — is an understatement.
Let’s take a look at some of the greatest hits of both Soundgarden and Audioslave, Cornell’s two defining bands.
In 1991, Chris Cornell — as the frontman of Soundgarden — released “Outshined,” which quickly got traction on both modern rock radio and MTV. Rolling Stone points out that Cornell was getting more “introspective” with his lyrics at the time this song was released, and that the song not only brought the band into the rock zeitgeist but inspired the 1996 film, Feeling Minnesota, with Keanu Reeves in the title role.
“That looking inward helped lead him to start writing songs differently for the band’s third record. “I’ve never really been biographical in my lyrics,” Cornell said while warming up for a show opening for Guns N’ Roses at Madison Square Garden in 1992, “so when I wrote a line like ‘I’m looking California and feeling Minnesota’ from ‘Outshined,’ it just felt refreshing.”
— Chris Cornell (@chriscornell) May 16, 2017
After Soundgarden broke up, Chris Cornell teamed up with members of Rage Against the Machine to create Audioslave, and the sound they created — while featuring the influence of both bands — had a sound all their own.
At the time of its release, Modern Rock Review gave “Gasoline” — one of the songs off of their self-titled debut album — especially rave reviews, and for good reason.
“‘Gasoline’ is driven by Commerford’s bass line and an almost synth sounding guitar effect during the verses. The song’s title and theme seems to be an alternate and more raw take on ‘burning the midnight oil’ and the track has an interesting bridge and solo section, which plays with dynamics and production techniques.”
— Chris Cornell (@chriscornell) May 11, 2017
“The Promise” — A Solo Effort in a Class All Its Own
In addition to his work with Audioslave and Soundgarden, Chris Cornell had a solo career that was unparalleled. In addition to providing singles for the hit Cameron Crowe movie, Singles, Cornell did an exclusive song for the hit film, The Promise, starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Charlotte LeBon. The film, which is about the Armenian genocide, benefited greatly from Cornell’s gorgeous project.
According to Loudwire, the film would have been a completely different one without the song, and even without the benefit of the film, Cornell’s voice rings brilliantly.
“Cornell’s penchant for conveying heart-wrenching emotion through gentle acoustic pieces is well-documented over the course of his career and “The Promise” holds true to this value. The first verse opens with the lines, “If I had nothing to my name / But photographs of you rescued from the flame / That is all I would ever need / As long as I can read what’s written on your face / The strength that shines behind your eyes / The hope and light that will never die,” before the singer launches into a powerful, lush chorus.”
The loss of the Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman is, in short, a devastating one. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Soundgarden and Audioslave, and with the Cornell family, at this difficult time.
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for CBS Radio]