MAY: CHRIS CORNELL
The world mourned one of our greatest musical talents
On May 18, 2017, the world woke up to the news that Chris Cornell, one of the greatest voices of our generation, was gone. Following a Soundgarden show in Detroit, he had taken his own life in a hotel bathroom. He was 52 years old. An autopsy revealed that several prescription drugs had been in his system, and as his widow, Vicky, explained: “After so many years of sobriety, this moment of terrible judgement seems to have completely impaired and altered his state of mind.” He was cremated, and his were ashes interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on May 26.
More than six months on, it still doesn’t seem real. Chris’s friend and longtime Hammer scribe Mörat puts it best: “We are told that time is the great healer, but how long is long enough? Maybe one day it’ll be OK to listen to Soundgarden or Audioslave again and not feel such a sense of loss, even anger, but that day has yet to come. What’s more, the feeling can strike at any time. There’s a moment in Westworld when Black Hole Sun is played on the piano, and there’s that loss. There’s that part in the comedy movie Blast From The Past when Drawing Flies is on the jukebox, and there’s that anger. How could they use the song in such a frivolous manner? This, despite the fact that the movie came out in 1999 and the song would have raised a smile back then. There’s no real sense to it.
“Chris would have understood. When his friend Andrew Wood died from an overdose in 1990, it was years before Chris could listen to Wood’s band, Mother Love Bone, again. In 1994 he told Rolling Stone that this was because Wood’s lyrics often felt as though they told the story of his demise. ‘Then again,’ he added all too prophetically, ‘my lyrics often could tell the same one.’ Maybe he always told us how, he just never told us when. Or why. The list of tributes to Chris is impressive: Guns N’ Roses covering Black Hole Sun; Serj Tankian and Audioslave performing Like A Stone; Stone Sour, Megadeth and Dee Snider all offering versions of Outshined... but there’s no need to go poking those wounds. Quite how Chris’s daughter Toni managed to sing Hallelujah on Good Morning America in tribute to her father – and to Chester Bennington, who took his own life two months later on Chris’s birthday – is beyond imagination. And still there are more tributes: Metallica, Eddie Vedder, Godsmack, to name just a few.
“Meanwhile, Chris’s wife, Vicky, fought back tears as she accepted the LA Chefs For Human Rights Hero Award on behalf of her husband on September 25 at the Program For Torture Survivors fundraiser, where he was honoured for his humanitarian work. She has also commissioned a memorial statue for Chris, by the artist and sculptor Wayne Toth, to be erected in Seattle. ‘He is Seattle’s son,’ she said, ‘and we will be bringing him home and honouring him.’
“Chris was so much more than just a singer; his music and lyrics touched millions of lives, and even saved some, if not, alas, his own. Now there’s just shadow on the sun. I can’t tell you why. Rest in peace,
Chris. The voice of a generation, an artist for all time.”