Goodbye Chris Cornell

I was unusually affected by news of the death of singer Chris Cornell. He was one of my absolute favorites. My musical inner circle. 100% on my list of albums to be stuck with on a deserted island. His songs were in perpetual rotation growing up and they still were now. His music traveled the journey with me from tapes to CDs to MP3 to iPod to iPhone.

When I was younger, I used to take blank tapes and let them run on record, tuned to 89.5 FM, Seton Hall’s student radio station. Kind of like trolling nets behind a fishing boat, I would let ’em rip and then go back and listen to the tapes to see what I caught. It was a great way to find new music. Sometimes the tapes would be junk — all commercials, King Missile, or maybe just not tuned perfectly — but sometimes I would catch gems. I found Pearl Jam this way — “Evenflow.” Stone Temple Pilots — “Plush.” And I found Soundgarden this way. I remember the first Soundgarden song I heard was “Jesus Christ Pose.” Those songs from college radio sounded so different than anything else this young kid heard at the time. You never knew when you would hear them again so taping them from the radio was key…and then you had to hope you caught the DJ telling you who was singing and what the name of the song was. No Google yet. So, when I heard Soundgarden, I took that week’s lawn mowing money, grabbed my friend Nick and we rode our bikes a few miles away to Newberry’s. Newberry’s was this old leftover 60’s department store in a strip mall on the border of Verona, NJ. They had a record store inside and I bought the album, Badmotorfinger. My version had a bonus disc with a cover of “Girl U Want.” Mind blown. I brought it home and wore those CDs out. Then I cut up the cardboard long box and taped it to my bedroom wall with the others like a musical patchwork quilt of rock and roll (I wish I had photos of my wall of music).

Those sounds from Seattle were so powerful. They were either really beautiful or violent and angry or brutally sad and honest. This grunge sound shut the door on so much of the shit I was hearing in other places. Made for powerful music that we all loved, but that music came with a price. Kurt paid it. Andrew Wood paid it. So did Layne. And now Chris Cornell paid it too. The signs were all over his songs. The trail was there. He must have been carrying so much for all these years. I’m so sad that, at 52, through all his successes and musical genius and all the fans who adored his talents, he didn’t see an alternative. That is tragic.

So last night, I did what I always do when I feel a certain way about something…I made a playlist. Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and Chris Cornell will live on for me.

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