Opinion: My musical awakening: Chris Cornell

Matt Poe

Legendary musician and front man Chris Cornell died early Thursday morning in what is being investigated as a possible suicide.

At just 52 years old, his death shocked the world of music and while it hasn’t been confirmed, it would add Cornell to the long list of iconic musicians who died by suicide.

Cornell was best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the band Soundgarden, one of the influential bands that defined the Seattle grunge scene that also gave us bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the 1990s.

While Cornell’s band never reached the pinnacle that the aforementioned ones did, their influence on a generation of music-makers and music-lovers is undoubtedly monumental — not to mention their allure on a bunch of kids who wanted to wear flannel and jam in their parent’s garage.

Cornell would later go on to form the supergroup Audioslave (which may be more familiar to you) where he served as the lead singer alongside three former members of the band Rage Against the Machine.

To most of my generation, his name is probably somewhat unfamiliar; just another aging rock star who gets the occasional pop culture reference, but not much else.

It’s such an obvious statement, but I’ll make it anyway: music defines so much of our lives.

The music we listen to sets our mood for the day, sets the tone for evening and can take you back to a special time and place. And depending when you find certain genres of music, they can help shape your musical tastes for life.

To me, Chris Cornell defined the sound of my life at preadolescence when the days were spent riding bikes around the neighborhood, before you discovered the local weed dealer. And even after you did, his music sounded pretty good after a hit or two.

Hell, I even did a project on grunge music in seventh grade because of how much I loved the sound of Cornell and others shredding guitar riffs while simultaneously bellowing angst-ridden lyrics about love, life, loss and the many other things I was too young to comprehend at that age.  

All I know is I loved the sound of that music and sometimes, that’s enough.

I found the CD of Soundgarden’s most famous album, SuperUnknown, around the house during that age and would play it in a CD player (remember those?!) all day long. I still have it in my car because I’m ancient and occasionally need to rock out as I cruise through suburbia in a 2000 Honda Accord.

Sadly, there will be no more Cornell music made.

He had a similar voice to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and may have left this world by his own doing, like Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.

And like both of them, he leaves behind a musical legacy that will live on long enough for my kids to hopefully one-day steal dad’s CD and find their own musical awakening.

Now please excuse me while I go look for that CD and play the hell out of it for a few days. Seems like the fitting thing to do.

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected]