474theMiX Rock Radio Blog Archive

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Chris Cornell: Another Great Gone Too Soon

On May 18th, 2017, following a Soundgarden concert in Detroit, Michigan, Chris Cornell was found dead. The unofficially official cause of death has been ruled suicide by hanging. The 52 year old musician’s wife and his attorney contend Cornell was under the influence at the time of his death and succumbed to an increase in suicidal thoughts. Friends, family, and fans await a final toxicology report. Regardless of the details of his death, Cornell leaves behind him an impressive career cut too short.

With Cornell’s passing ruled a suicide, he joins a list of tragically deceased artists, most of whom suffered from clinical depression. Cornell’s name will forever come up alongside the likes of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer co-founder Keith Emerson, and various members of the infamous “27 Club” including Janis Jopin, Amy Winehouse. More than a few of these deaths blur the line between intentional and accidental suicide. However, the most interesting ties can be drawn between Cornell and another 1990s grunge trailblazer: Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.  On April 5th, 1994, at the height of fame, Cobain fatally shot himself after a few failed suicide attempts over the course of several previous weeks. The band was also rumored to be parting ways. Cobain was married to Courtney Love and father to two-year old Frances Cobain. Cornell, like Cobain was a happy husband and father.

Chris Cornell’s rise to fame began in 1984 with the forming of the band Soundgarden. On March 8th, 1994, coincidentally just one month prior to Cobain’s suicide, the band released their fourth, and most successful, album: Superunknown. The album contained quintessential 1990s alternative grunge rock hits “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman.” Despite breaking up in 1997 due to creative differences, the band’s immortality has been cemented in pop culture right next to names like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Several of their chart toppers can be found on Viacom’s Guitar Hero video game series, and their monthly listeners rating on Spotify has skyrocketed since Cornell’s passing.
After Soundgarden, Cornell maintained a moderately successful solo career, riding on his 90s grunge fame. In 2001, he formed Audioslave with three former Rage Against the Machine members. The group was commercially successful and even found themselves with several Grammy nominations. Seven years and three studio albums later, Cornell decided to leave the group to pursue other interests after disputes over distribution over publishing rights. In 2010 Soundgarden reunited and released two studio albums. One was a compilation album, and the other was all new music. The compilation album contained previously unreleased track “Black Rain” which would go on to be the band’s first hit since 1997. While they never reached quite the same level of fame they had in the 1990s, Soundgarden was still making some waves. The remainder of their tour has been cancelled, and rumors are swirling around their upcoming album.

The impossibly long list of musicians who committed suicide shows two distinct patterns. First there are those who were young and in the middle of chaos, balancing existing metal illness with incredulous fame. Musicians are certainly not alone in this category. The other pattern is comprised of people who are older and dealing with tragedy not related specifically to fame including health issues, debt, loss. On several occasions the struggle is with an inability of their bodies to continue to perform at the level they once did, the level they would like them to, or the inability to even perform at all. Given these patterns and Cornell’s recent successes in both group and solo careers, his death seems an anomaly. He survived the first dose of fame and was, at least not publicly, struggling with any huge personal tragedy. So why now?  Maybe not even Cornell himself has the answer to that haunting question. RIP, Chris Cornell.

“Black hole sun, won’t you come and wash away the rain?”

Sarah Mueller
474theMiX Rock Radio
Station Promoter/Blogger

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