And with that, another frontman from the world of grunge is gone. But unlike those that passed before Chris Cornell, his loss is sudden and unexpected. In a musical world already reeling from high profile deaths over the past 18 months, the loss of the 52-year-old is another shock.
Admittedly grunge obviously hasn’t been a musical thing for a while; a chilling full stop put on it by Kurt Cobain when he decided to empty the contents of his shotgun into his head back in 1994. But for a whole generation of teenagers it was a musical awakening that shook up the musical world in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
There’s no need for a re-telling of Soundgarden’s career here. Their place in rock’s annals is assured.
Four bands stood above everyone else. But of the vocalists for those acts (Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden), Chris Cornell stood out as a true frontman of a band. (Yeah, sorry for those who want to bump Stone Temple Pilots up to the podium — their status as not being from Seattle pretty much never had them truly accepted, despite their successes). The others had almost reluctant singers. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley sung from places of despair and anguish. Cobain could be unpredictable, sure (how many guitars were smashed at Nirvana gigs one wonders?), while at times Staley could be seconds away from being on the nod while performing thanks to his heroin addiction. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder too didn’t seem comfortable in the spotlight, preferring to divert attention to other members of the band.
But Cornell came from the Robert Plant mould of performer — cocksure, flowing hair, a hell of a voice and, let’s face it, he was pretty easy on the eye when performing with his shirt off courtesy of those abs and man-v. Soundgarden’s chugging rock differed too from the others, less of the quiet/loud dynamic prevalent.
And now Eddie Vedder is the last grunge frontman left standing. It’s probably not something he wants, but whether he likes it or not he’s the last of a movement that burned intensely for only a short period, but left a legacy still felt today.
There’s no need for a re-telling of Soundgarden’s career here. Their place in rock’s annals is assured. But now it’s the end of an era.
A lot is already being made of Cornell mixing in the refrain from In My Time Of Dying in the last show he performed with Soundgarden as they jammed out on Slaves & Bulldozers. A traditional gospel song, with lyrics such as “Jesus, going to make up my dying bed/ Meet me, Jesus, meet me”, people are wondering if it was some sort of foreshadowing of his death, which happened not long after he performed it live. But even with the added poignancy of those lyrics, maybe we should focus instead on one of the lyrics in Slaves & Bulldozers itself: “Now I know why you’ve been taken”. Chances are, we probably won’t.If you are suffering from depression or need assistance, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636.