(Picture credit: Alison Braun/Getty Images)
I’ve been struggling to accept that a man who had such influence on my youth commited suicide last Thursday, hence why this post is so late. Chris Cornell was one of the most influential grunge artists, with an unmistakable voice. He helped to usher the grunge scene in the 90s, and since had proved time and time again that he was one of the most versatile and uniquely powerful musicians of all time. He left an imprint on a generation over his 30-year career in bands including Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog, as well as a successful solo career.
Here are just a few reasons why he became such an icon.
1. That Voice
That four-octave voice. That howl. It could change between masterfully searing to deeply expressive in a matter of seconds, leaping between baritone, tenor and falsetto with ease. You can hear it on every single recording, no matter what band. His solo albums show a more sensitive side focusing on mortality, faith and personal becoming. Chris Cornell seemed to know when to howl, and when to tone it down, something that I find many artists these days struggle with.
2. Grunge God
There’s no denying it, when Soundgarden signed a contract with Seattle’s Sub Pop back in 1987, it paved the way for the likes of Nirvana, Alice In Chains and other, to soundtrack the decade. Despite Nirvana having the legacy, the beating heart of grunge’s rise and Soundgarden’s own story, was Chris Cornell, whose sound and presence was potent from start to finish.
Yes, his music helped a lot of people, but he was also a philantropist who partnered and raised millions for charity, alongside his wife Vicky, to mobilise support for children facing challenges such as homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect. This ensures that his legacy will be as much about what he did off the stage than on it, despite keeping these activities intentionally private.
Of course, Soundgarden where obviously colossal alternative 90s rock, but Chris Cornell had the ability to create genre-bending music for more than 30 years. From collaborating with Pearl Jam members in Temple of the Dog, to the diverse soundtrack of The Avengers, 12 Years A Slave and Casino Royale, he honoured his past while always looking for new sounds to incorporate to challenge himself.
5. Re-invention of himself
The collaboration of Audioslave in 2001, was an event in itself. Featuring three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine, the band proved another side of Chris Cornell. Yeah, critics were divided, but listening to it still to this day, obviously the critics who slated it, were wrong. If you don’t still get tingles whenever you hear Cochise, then you are beyond helping.