Soundgarden broke when I was in my early twenties. I was a mildly rebellious angry teen who believed in my guitar and my voice. I never had any formal vocal or instrument training. It was all self taught.
In college, Seattle went apeshit and for the MTV generation, it became Beatlemania for us. If you were there, you couldn’t turn on a television or radio without Grunge being shoved in your face.
Alice in Chains was the first big one in my social circle. They broke earlier than everyone else and forced the eighties to rethink their hair band mentality. We gobbled it up. It was dark. It was heavy. Facelift was little too heavy for me, personally, at the time. I wasn’t quite ready for it.
Nirvana blew that shit wide open not too long after that and being nineteen in a college dorm, that was literally, all the rage for every boy on any campus. Again, it wasn’t quite my thing, but I still was in and fully engrossed with it.
Then came Pearl Jam. As a budding vocalist, Eddie Vedder brought the tones, the passion, the emotional release that I was looking for as a singer. It wasn’t until Eddie Vedder that I found the courage to let my voice fly. It’s no secret. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now. Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder were my spirit animals. I was all Pearl Jam all the time.
And then MTV introduced us all to Temple of the Dog. Eddie Vedder was a guest on that album. I had to have it. Hunger Strike played twenty-four hours a day on the radio and MTV. The first thing that struck me was that voice. That golden fucking tone was a religious experience. Now I had TWO CDs in constant rotation! Every track. Chris Cornell’s vocals on that album were fucking perfect in every sense.
Of course I had to go get those albums from that guy’s band. Soundgarden, like those earlier Seattle bands, at that point in 1992 was much heavier than I was ready for at the time. I wasn’t ready for it. Although, it became a challenge for me, as a singer to match the key and tone for Rusty Cage, which with practice, I’m proud to say I can still nail that shit to this day.
Then the Singles soundtrack bright me back in to the fold. I fucking loved this guy’s voice. Still do.
Shortly after, Soundgarden went a little more mainstream, a little more my speed and they fucking blew up bigger than the others. Black Hole Sun. A wild video that never fucking stopped playing and I didn’t care. I belted it out along side MTV every single time.
I saw Soundgarden only one time at Lollapalooza 1993 with Pearl Jam and the Chili Peppers. I don’t remember much from that. It was a nasty fucking mosh pit for Soundgarden and I remember backing out because I didn’t want to get hurt and I sat on a hillside looking over the ten thousand people that were there and barely being able to see them perform. I don’t remember much about that. It was a long time ago.
As I grew older, and the music on the radio and television changed, music slipped to the way side for me. Let’s be honest, I grew up and had kids. I didn’t have time for music.
I think we forget how influential MTV was in developing music at the time. Blind Melon rocketed to stardom over a dumb video. Blind Melon was another of my go to bands, that are all but forgotten now.
As my life changed again, ten, maybe fifteen years later I found myself in a band singing nineties music. This is when I feel in love with all of that heavy shit I had set aside as a kid. When you’re performing it, the slow stuff can be powerful, but not as powerful as the heavy stuff.
Outshined, as tricky as some of its timing can be in spots became one of my band’s signature covers. I remember one particular instance where we were playing outdoors at some marina/gala thing and rocking the fuck out and I zoned out and lost myself in that song that I’ve rarely hit after that. The band was on point and in the moment. If you’re a musician, you’ve had those moments and afterwards you just look at each other and smile. Fucking Outshined.
Fast forward five or six years and the band dismantled. When Cooper, the band mascot died, so did Cooper’s Kennel. It didn’t intentionally happen that way, but everyone’s lives were heading in different directions right around that same time. It was time for that band to be done. The universe made it so.
I was left out on a limb. I had been regularly performing for the first time in fifteen years and then it was over. I had friends trying to push me into solo acoustic stuff (Ian Wagner, that’s you, bud). I had picked up and played random songs at their gigs and everyone knew that I had the cups to do it for four hours at a clip, but I, I did not have that same confidence. My memory is for shit in recent years, and there was no way I could maintain it.
It was around that time I heard a bootleg Chris Cornell acoustic show. Live in Sweden I believe is what it was called. Again, I was blown away by this dude’s voice and presence. A fucking living legend, baring it all on stage. Solo. Acoustic. No, I did not have the same feeling with Eddie Vedder Acoustic and solo. That wasn’t the same for me in any way, and for that I’ll never have an explanation.
That show set my mind straight. It single-handedly gave me the courage to perform alone, which I still do regularly when I’m not writing or working or doing family things.
So yes, the loss of Chris Cornell is important to me. I wish him the best in his after life adventures. I will be the one NOT closing with the cliche Temple lyrics. That was about Andy, not about Chris. I will close with the song that impacted me the most as I went solo.
Be yourself is all that you can do.
Thank you for those words.