I have been working on this piece for the magazine for quite awhile now, looking back on Chris’ life and music and I am still working on it really- I edit and then re-edit and then remember something else and rewrite and re-edit some more- it has been a work in progress that I still don’t find perfect and probably never will, but, I want to share it with you just the same- it’s Chris’s 53rd birthday and it’s time….
John Lennon was one of my heroes, just as he was for many other people my age, Chris being one of them. I remember when he died- and it seemed easier to write about him, to report it tho tears were shed and moments of silence observed. Maybe because there was the disconnect of age, he was of my parents generation- brilliant, progressive, talented with an edge and someone to look up to. I cried that night in 1980 at the radio station I was working at as a kid when the news came thru. It was surreal! John Lennon shot? Why? By who? I jumped in to help monitor the AP and UPI wires so we could get the news out quickly- be it good or bad. I can still remember the bells going off like mad on the teletype machines and it was very bad news coming thru. I remember sitting on the floor of the studio with the other jock who was working on air that night after we managed to say the words that no one wanted to hear and we had a good cry…… I remember it like it was yesterday…. but it is now just 3 years short of 40 years ago…I was a senior in High School then. Almost the same amount of time has passed that John was on the planet since that night. It’s crazy to me that John would have been 77 this year. It’s pretty crazy to think about because he is forever frozen in time for us, he will never age past 40- and he is deeply missed by his wife, sons, siblings and friends.. and of course his fans…. but we carried on…. it’s life.. it is what you do….
Now we have faced another legendary artist, another voice of a generation, having fallen silent. This time is different though… very much different.
I co-host a radio show for the magazine and the night of May 17, after having a 2 hour show of nothing but Nine Inch Nails in honor of Trent Reznor’s birthday- I got home about 1 in the morning west coast time, had a snack and started going thru the routine of prepping for the next day and winding down to get to bed when a scream came out of my room mate’s bedroom- I immediately yelled “What?” and the frantic yell of “Chris Cornell!” ricocheted down the hall. I stopped in my tracks and my heart sank to the pit of my stomach… I just kept saying ” No no no no no no no…” when tearfully she came out and read to me the news report… Immediately I took to the web- must have at least 3 sources to confirm, and I wasn’t about to start calling people at what was now 2 AM, I doubt I would of made much sense if I had given the circumstance- All the majors were reporting the same thing, go to Facebook and Twitter and it is posts from Chris’s friends and colleagues and my friends and colleagues all expressing grief. I tried to write something and found it easier to just do like I did at the station 37 years ago and just repeat what was there… and I cried… and strains of Hello 2 Heaven started playing on the turntable of the mind and I remembered the last time I saw him play- sold out in LA on the Temple of the Dog tour- just a couple of days past 6 months to the day of that show… and while the reports coming in were ones I prayed weren’t true, they were confirmed. A generation, along with Chris’s family, friends, bandmates, the city of Seattle, fans and the world it would seem… we were all in mourning.
It’s now been a bit over 2 months since that horrible night- it hasn’t gotten any easier really but we carry on. Chris’s passing has hit harder than John’s did however. Probably harder than Lemmy, or Weiland or Prince or even Bowie… maybe it is because Chris, we always had figured, was one of us. We are all either close to or the same age. We have had many same experiences, shared world experiences from Nixon to Hair Metal to the Iraq War- we have had careers, created art, danced or surfed in mosh pits, been married, gotten divorced, had kids, tried to help folk in time of need, looked in disbelief as grey hair started to appear- all sort of a group collective I suppose. We have experienced Loud Love, looked California while feeling Minnesota, prayed to be shown how to really live, and watched our own as well as Chris’s public, and sometimes even the private, seasons roll on by…
Chris Cornell was the voice of the angels on high filtering down from Seattle, and yet, still very humble, gracious, funny and loving to all he met….
If suicide does anything, it leaves us wondering individually and collectively what we could have done to help or make things better. When in fact, this is one time, we could do nothing. And while he may have written the words “He hurt so bad like a soul breakin’- But he never said nothin’ to me.. ” for his dear friend and room mate Andrew Wood of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone- they seemed to be very fitting for Chris himself now. Nothing was ever said about what was going on, though he has spoken in the past regards his own battles with depression, addiction and anxiety. Things seemed to be in such a good spot now- he hid what was going on very well, perhaps so as not to worry anyone- he always seemed to be the type who wouldn’t want people to fuss over him or cause anyone undo worry.
I can’t seem to find the right words, or at least put them into a state that would make sense to you dear readers. Most of you feel as I do- and have wept off and on for the past few weeks because of a song, or a video, or a picture… some of us have drug out old tattered tour shirts from 25 years ago that are thead bare and don’t fit well anymore, but ya just feel you need to wear it one more time for Chris… or you have spent money on something to remind you of Chris and the work he did because the cds weren’t enough or the poster in the attic was dusted off and framed and hung in a prominent spot- not because you left him behind but because, like Chris, you have a wife or kids or a husband who is a fan but just can’t seem to admit that he is ever so slightly jealous of that ’92 poster you have of Chris bare chested with that lion’s main flowing in the breeze ( tho some guys do joke that said poster has made them question their own sexuality! ha! ha!) … We may not have the words right now, but the fact remains, we were all effected, we all have felt like we lost someone who was like a sort of family member, that one of the “good people” Mr Rogers talked about on PBS when we, ( you, me, Chris) were kids, was stolen from us somehow and we are just trying to get a grip with it all and carry on. Jerry Cantrell, Chris’s friend and lead guitarist of Alice in Chains made the comment after the funeral ( and I am paraphrasing right now so bear with me) that this will “Never make sense”, will never ‘feel right” and will ” always hurt”. Sadly, I think he is right.
However the one thing we MUST do is continue to celebrate the man’s life, continue the good deeds he tried to do with the homeless kids and refugees, and just work on being a good person our own selves over all.
Chris Cornell was not just a rock singer, or some tragic talent from the rainy Pacific NorthWest. Chris Cornell was a Father, a Son, a Husband, a Brother, an Uncle, and a Friend. Chris was talented and witty and genuine and above all, by all accounts of those who knew him, a good person in a world that seems to be getting more cold and even more questionable at times. I think after all the musical tributes are done and the pain of his leaving begins to numb- the best way that we, as people who claim to love the man with the golden voice from Seattle, the best way that we can honor his life, is to reach down and pick up those who are not doing as well as we are- to share what we have with someone who needs it and show some loud love in all we do. Chris did leave us with some amazing music… videos that give us glimpses of his wit and insights on a number of subjects and himself…
…and Chris Cornell also left us with an example of what it means to be one of those “good people”.
Say hello to heaven for us Chris… We will do our best here to be one of the good people too….
’til we meet again… Loud Love.
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