Some days you wake up and hear news that makes you wish you’d left your head under the covers. Upon reflection though, the same news makes you realise that you have to get up and grab life by the horns because you absolutely do not know the instant it might all be over.
Last night Chris Cornell played a gig with Soundgarden in Detroit, Michigan. For fans, the live experience is the epitome of our love of music. The most alive we ever feel, when the bass is thumping through our chests as we roar the lyrics that mean so much to us. In Detroit last night Chris gave that experience to thousands of people. Today he did not wake up. The tragedy of that cannot be explained.
In a career that began in the eighties with Soundgarden and lasted literally until the last day of his life, Chris Cornell achieved more than many can ever hope for. From Seattle, he was one of the architects of the grunge movement. Through Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave, and with an extensive solo catalogue, he produced music beloved by millions. Commercial success was never higher than his 2006 track You Know My Name, the theme song for Daniel Craig’s first Bond movie, Casino Royale, which made him the first American male to perform a Bond theme. His work spanned styles and genres, with albums like Badmotorfinger and Cochise among some of the most innovative ever made. His recent foray into acoustic music, including a tour of the UK and Ireland last year, showed his vocal talents in a way we hadn’t previously appreciated.
Many are unaware of the work he put in behind the scenes, quietly making sure his legacy was more than a back catalogue. With his wife he set up the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation in 2012, raising funds and working with charities to support vulnerable children. Chris used his celebrity to the charities’ advantage, auctioning off memorabilia and meet and greet packages, with all proceeds going to help children affected by homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect. This he did quietly, privately. It’s a mark of the man that he didn’t feel the need to advertise his philanthropy. That he now leaves behind three children of his own makes his work all the more poignant.
On a personal level, I became aware of Audioslave back in the early noughties, when I was given a copy of Cochise. I remember driving to work every day playing that album on repeat until I knew every word of every song. Other drivers must have thought I was crazy, belting it out as I drove along. It woke me up in the mornings, it drove me home in the evening and it inspired me to discover more. It opened up a whole new world. Who could ever have heard that voice and not wanted to hear more? I’m so glad I was given that album. I’m sitting here now, tears in my eyes, listening to one of the most iconic voices of our time, and the lyrics are almost too much to bear. From Cochise, the track The Last Remaining Light:
And if you don’t believe
The sun will rise
Stand alone and greet
The coming night
In the last remaining light.