Like many who grew up in the 90’s, I listened to grunge. It exploded onto America via Nirvana first, then through Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. It was basically the bullet that killed off hair bands of the 80’s (I still like hair bands, it’s just that there were too damn many of them to last that long). The music was more somber, less formulaic, and hit a nerve with a lot of people. The lyrics were cryptic at times or flat out nonsensical, but you felt smarter for listening. I played Pearl Jam’s Ten so much on tape, I wore the cassette out completely in a year before picking up others. Kurt Cobain was the most well known; Eddie Vedder’s voice was like Helen of antiquity – the face that launched a thousand ships. His voice launched a thousand lead singers that wanted to emulate his style, most not even close (sorry Scott Stapp). I thought Layne Staley’s voice matched Alice in Chains’ music more closely than any other band’s vocalist ever could, but no one could sing like Chris Cornell. No one.
He could go deep or high. His voice sounded strained and chaotic, but he was always perfectly in control. Soundgarden could do any song style with his vocals; I then heard Temple of the Dog and his solo work, first in the song “Seasons” off the Single soundtrack (hey guys, ‘member when soundtracks had good music?). “Room a Thousand Years Wide”, “Fresh Tendrils” and “4th of July” got put on repeat over and over when I was doing homework. Later, I still followed Chris’s solo work, his stint with Audioslave and his guest spots – he never lost a step right to the end. Some music nerds said Grunge began to die when Cobain shot himself; but to many it really evaporated when Soundgarden broke up in the late 90’s. After Grunge, rock really has struggled to make headway as a mass movement. The late 90’s boy band push and the transition of popular rock back to “butt rock” while metal became harder and harder to find was brutal for me – I really never got back into music outside what I already liked after that. I think when the industry kicked all the ugly people out it really went downhill. MORE UGLY PEOPLE WITH GUITARS PLEASE. This isn’t a fashion show or strip club, it’s my radio.
What was really surprising was that Chris hung himself. Soundgarden was back together and was about to headline Rock on the Range, the biggest rock show in America annually. He was still a great, transformative singer; even was married with 3 kids. So what is it with suicide, especially with entertainers?
Suicide is very strange – unexpected death is like a gut punch, but suicide is even more cruel in some ways. It leaves a swath of guilt, anger and regret in its wake and no one is safe. Suicide is viewed as the most selfish act a person can commit by some; others run to point at mental illness. I think every case is unique, there’s a not a cookie cutter answer, like most things in life. Reading stories about kids in elementary school is heart wrenching. I think part of it is the fact people think social media has replaced actual, meaningful relationships. Part of it is being overwhelmed by despair at a time and place no one is around in that moment to help…but again, who can speak for every case. Having been touched by suicide close to me I can just say one thing to anyone considering it. Someone needs you, even if you don’t think so. Someone will be devastated, even though you think no one cares. Someone will plunge into the depths of grief, maybe deeper than you think you’re at now, over what you chose to do. Someone loves you. Reach out first. Ask for help. If you’re too embarrassed or ashamed to talk to family or friends, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline – Call 1-800-273-8255. It always gets better than you feel at the worst.
I feel the most for his family and for those left behind after these things happen; I hope they find strength that they will surely need. Well, another hilarious blog in the books. I’ll be funny next time, but thought it needed said to the five or six people that read this blog.
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