I was Chris Cornell’s biggest fan.
I know I’m not alone in saying that. You could be too, and I hope you get there. If you decide to take the journey in discovering who he was, and what he will always be, you will eventually appreciate just how massively superior he was to almost every artist, and yet understand how burdened he was as a person.
If you’re skeptical of my assurance, I don’t think you will be for very long.
When you hear “Slaves and Bulldozers” and the second chorus explodes and Chris trills that note on the word “heart” for an eternity and you never realized life could be this awesome? You’ll get it.
When you’re in your twenties and you go back listen to Audioslave’s “Gasoline” or “Getaway Car” and realize just how much power is coming out of that man, but as a teenager you were too caught up in Tom Morello’s esoteric guitar playing to appreciate? You’ll get it.
When Superunknown becomes the soundtrack to the most important adult years of your life (so far) and you don’t mind driving long distances because it means you can listen to Chris reach a new atmosphere on songs like “Limo Wreck,” and you wish your destination was on the other side of the country so you could keep driving, and listening?You’ll get it.
When you realize you’ve always liked “Hunger Strike” and, hey, maybe you should finally check out the rest of the Temple of the Dog album … and you do … and now you have a new favorite record? You’ll get it.
When you’re not even mad about Scream because Euphoria Mourning makes up for any misstep Chris could ever dream to take, and “When I’m Down” never stops breaking your heart, but you don’t dare quit listening to it? Ever? You’ll get it.
When you go on YouTube and devour every interview Chris ever held, and you notice he never looks the interviewer in the eye for too long, either because he’s anxious or he’s just searching for the best answers because he’s one of the most interesting/pensive/introspective celebrities you’ve ever heard? You’ll get it.
When you admire the many talents of Hendrix, and Mercury, and all those that have come before, but their star power feels distant, but Chris’ is so close it’s practically burning your retinas, and you think, “Dude, what if Chris ever died? How would I feel then?”
And that day comes. You stare at the computer screen in disbelief, because you thought he had it all together at this age. He was better. He was so … at peace with everything. You turn on MTV, something you hadn’t done in years, but you remember the iconic Kurt Loder breaking news segment on Kurt Cobain, and you don’t want it to be true, but sure enough, videos of Chris are playing all day. And you slump in your chair and cry.
Maybe you won’t get it. Maybe you’ll never attach yourself to an artist you never knew, so when something like this happens again, you can briskly move on with your life. But if you do, you’ll unlock days and nights spent listening to someone pour his heart out in every line, every note sung, and the memories will build: rocking out on the 405 Freeway headed to class; getting pumped to “Outshined” before a silly coed softball game; seeing Soundgarden in 2014, worried that he might sound shaky but during the opener he’s killing it and even the older fans behind you are giddy with, “Man, he sounds good!”
Those memories will turn into a tower that will never fall, and you’ll be better off for it. (This guy knows what’s up.)
Chris was the greatest voice of them all, a deep man who wrote deep songs, and carried with him the pain of losing friend after friend after friend. I cannot judge, and though I will most likely ponder his life and his motives in my days ahead, I promise not to do so often, as it will be a futile effort. But I will miss him, and though he was but one man, I think you should too.
In case you still doubt my sincerity, I can only echo the opening line to perhaps his most vocally impressive song, powerful and resonant, from now until forever:
Every word I said is what I mean.