The first time I saw Chris Cornell live was for his solo tour in 2012. Myself and Papa Hoops attended the Symphony Hall in Birmingham and if you’re familiar with the venue, then you can only imagine the purity of his voice bouncing around the acoustics. I’m not ashamed to say I cried listening to the four tone octave range of this God during his unforgettable performance of ‘Seasons’. Just perfection. At the end of his show, he picked a guy and his friend from the front row and took a photo with the rest of the audience in the background. I remember sitting in one of the top rows wishing that was me and wondering how amazing those guys must have felt! This was one of the biggest attractions of Cornell (apart from his epic vocal range and stage presence!); the fact that he could walk into a room and perform to an audience like he knew each individual person, filling the room with his extraordinary talent.
The thing I love most about Mr Cornell is the fact he was never ashamed or scared to express his feelings. He was very open about talking of his experiences with loss, grief, happiness, sadness, love, anger and everything that slots in between.
During his 20s, Chris moved in with Mother Love Bone lead singer Andy Wood, as highlighted in the ‘Pearl Jam 20’ documentary. Cornell expressed that his relationship with Andy grew very quickly into a brotherhood and someone he trusted and cared a lot about. On March 16th 1990, Andrew Wood overdosed on Heroin and was rushed straight to hospital where he was placed on life support after complications that occurred with his brain. He died three days later aged 24. Now, I have dealt with grief way more than any 25 year old should, and loosing a friend to drugs is one of the hardest to comprehend. Blaming yourself, weighing up what could have been different, why did they do it, trying to fathom the loss, these are just minuscule things that run loops round your head. Cornell channelled this grieving he felt and put it into music, which is something I have always admired. In 1990, one of the most iconic supergroups was formed for a one of album in honour of MTB singer Mr Wood. This band ‘Temple of The Dog’ included members of both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam (this was also one of the early releasing including Eddie Vedder). Cornell’s collaboration groups didn’t just stop there. After Soundgarden decided to take a break, he joined Audioslave and eventually went on to create his own back catalogue of music including a James Bond theme song.
In 2017, Chris Cornell returned to the Symphony Hall in Birmingham as part of his Higher Truth tour. I had front row seats and just starred in amazement for the entire show. Fantastic Negrito actually supported this show and has since gone on to win two Grammy Awards for best Contemporary Blues Album for 2017 and 2019. He always comments on the relationship he had with Cornell and how much of a magical person he was AND how thankful he is for believing in him. Cornell received a standing ovation at the end of his encore for the Higher Truth show and he stood proudly and waved to everyone around the room. He looked down at the front row and for just a second I had eye contact with my hero. I fan-girled. Hard. (Literally, almost tears….#NoShame!)
The Higher Truth Album was followed by a single release for a movie called ‘The Promise’ which Cornell wrote a song for with the same name. This was his last release before his sudden death on May 18th, 2017. On this day, hundreds of thousands of Soundgarden fans lost a piece of themselves. I remember sobbing all day long and my phone was blowing up from everyone who heard the news. I still cry about it now, sometimes the power of his voice reminds me that he no longer walks the earth and how devastating it is to live in a world where he no longer breathes.
Cornell was a huge advocate for refugee children and families. In 2012, the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation was put in place to raise funds and awareness for refugees worldwide. For Black Friday Record Store Day 2018, Cornell’s single ‘When Bad Does Good’ was released on a black and grey marble 7” single (its truly beautiful…) after the video for this single was dropped. This single also supported the foundation for refugees. The video for this showcased Chris Cornell Jr playing a younger version of Cornell riding a bike through Seattle, to mimic the idea of his sound and presence still living through the iconic grunge capital.
“Children should always feel like the adults are living in this world to nurture them, to take care of them, to protect them from any bad thing that might come.” – Chris Cornell
Following Cornell’s tragic death, the #KeepThePromise campaign evolved and artists, friends and fans of Cornell all vowed to Keep The Promise in his name.
2018 was a very respectful year for the Cornell family, with Toni and Chris Jr collecting Cornell’s Grammy for Best Rock Performance, Cornell’s own statue being unveiled in grunge’s hometown of Seattle and a memorial concert named ‘I Am The Highway’ took place at The Forum in LA, on January 16th, 2019. A large amount artists from across a variety of genres dedicated their performances of covers and their own classics, to celebrate to life of the rock god.
Discovering the intricacy of who Cornell actually was helped me appreciate his music in such a different light. I was a late bloomer with Soundgarden (I was always a die-hard Nirvana fan growing up), yet now I can’t go a single day without hearing his voice. Whether that be through Soundgarden, Temple of The Dog, his Solo work, Audioslave or even Live sets.
Chris Cornell helped me and will continue to help me through some extremely tough times, and for that I am eternally grateful. I vow to #KeepThePromise.
For anyone who struggles with their Mental Health or experience suicidal thoughts, please reach out. Someone is there for you to listen and help. The first step is the hardest but I promise you, you have purpose, you have reason to be here and people care for you. You are not alone. – Lexi Frances
Cornell Photo credit to, Josh Jensen – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jwjensen/