Although Temple Of The Dog (1991) was the first album that I had that featured Chris Cornell, I had forgotten that it had been conceived by him as a tribute to his friend and Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood after his death from a heroin overdose in 1990. Featuring Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, two ex-members of Mother Love Bone, as well as Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder – all four would go on to release the first Pearl Jam album Ten in the same year. Cornell had previously released two albums with Soundgarden, Ultramega OK in 1988 and Louder Than Love in 1989. Matt Cameron, seen and heard here playing drums, was initially a member of Soundgarden, joining Pearl Jam in 2000 for their sixth album Binaural before returning to play with Soundgarden on their reformation.
What stood out from this collaboration was Chris Cornell’s banshee like wailing, an exquisite scream that would have brought a smile to the director of any horror movie. Cornell’s voice was somehow powerful and sweet, melodic and seemingly limitless in its range. He continued to experiment with sound and music after Soundgarden broke up in 1997, forming Audioslave as Rage Against The Machine split from their vocalist Zack de la Rocha.
But it was the solo albums that surprised his audience, as a less brash debut Euphoria Morning (1999) led him to some riffs again on the second album Carry On (2007) but ultimately branching out into a completely different direction on his third album Scream, an album that ironically moved away from the Rock format altogether. An acoustic live album, Songbook, followed in 2011, in 2015 he released Higher Truth.
Other achievements of note would be singing and co-writing You Know My Name with David Arnold, the Bond theme for Casino Royale (2006). Cornell’s voice and songs appeared in various games and movie soundtracks over the years. He worked in a production role notably with Screaming Trees on their Uncle Anesthesia album (1991). In the same year Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger reaching No. 39 in the US and achieving double platinum sales. Black Hole Sun from their No.1 US album Superunknown (1994) turned them into superstars as the album went 5 x platinum. Their last album Down On The Upside (1996) reached No.2 on the US chart but by 1997 they had broken up citing the business side of R’n’R as responsible for their demise. They returned in 2012 with King Animal reaching No.5 on the US chart.
Cornell’s shocking and sudden death reminds us of an era of singers that have lost their lives tragically, Kurt Cobain, Layne Stayley, Scott Weiland, Shannon Hoon, Andrew Wood and now Chris Cornell. This pattern of success and death has to end. My friend Jonny Cragg (drummer with Spacehog) who lives in Seattle has been studying to be a councillor and his idea is to help musicians deal with their lives. Dear Jonny, please make it happen soon.
R.I.P. Chris Cornell, July 20th 1964 – May 17th 2017. Condolences to family, friends and fans.