Martin Cooper honours Soundgarden and Audioslave’s sadly-departed rock genius Chris Cornell with a look at his ‘solo era’ style.
On 18 May the rock world lost one of its greatest frontmen: Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave. Cornell had been on tour with the reformed Soundgarden when the effects of on-going medication seem to have got the better of his judgement and he was found dead in his hotel room in Boston. Heartfelt tributes have been paid by fans and peers alike.
Cornell was one of the founding members of Soundgarden who, along with Nirvana, spearheaded the grunge movement in Seattle in the early 1990s. Soundgarden’s style was more sophisticated than many of their contemporaries, and often used odd time signatures and interesting changes, while always being built around Cornell’s soaring voice, which had a nearly four-octave range.
Chris went on to form the supergroup Audioslave with instrumentalists from Rage Against The Machine, releasing two highlyacclaimed albums. He has also won two Grammys for his writing and performing.
Cornell and Soundgarden signed to the Sub Pop label in 1987, but didn’t achieve a real breakthrough until 1994’s Superunknown, which set them alongside Nirvana and Pearl Jam at the forefront of the grunge movement. The band dissolved in the late 90s amid tensions due to musical direction. But before forming Audioslave, Cornell released four solo albums, all of which made the top 20 in America and all but one (Scream) the UK top 40. The first was 1999’s critically acclaimed Euphoria Morning. This newfound freedom gave Cornell a new lease of life and he continued to tour and record as a solo artist. His touring band has at times included Pete Thorn who these days is widely known for his in-depth YouTube demos and lessons.
Cornell’s eclecticism led him to co-write and record a Bond theme in 2006, and also record a cover version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. He eventually reformed Soundgarden and they had been enjoying a successful tour right up to the day of his death.
The track this month focuses on Cornell’s rockier solo side. It’s in the key of B Minor (B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A) although there’s an E Major chord in the first part and an F# Major that lends a Harmonic Minor vibe to proceedings. The track is not tricky to play but you’ll need to combine volume and aggression with control and finesse. Watch out for unwanted open strings ringing, and check out the playing tips for more details.
CORNELL hAD A sOARING vOICE, whICh hAD A NEARLY fOuROCTAvE RANGE
NEXT MONTH Martin looks at the rock guitar style of Aerosmith’s amazing Joe Perry
Chris Cornell: one of rock’s greatest ever frontmen