Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Why Chris Cornell's Death Affects Me

I realize that the death of Chris Cornell hits me hard because it signals another victim of fame and the grunge movement. 

Understand that grunge music was, for my generation, an entry point into university and adventure and exploring one's self. Pearl Jam's album "Ten", in particular, was the album du jour in fall 1992, and an ideal traveling soundtrack for a 19-year-old going from home to elsewhere by bus or train for the first time. Eddie Vedder's baritone chants and the melodic guitar riffs and anthem album were terrific companions for a new adventure.

Nirvana and Soundgarden were the accompanying heavy grunge music for me. Keep in mind that the grunge sound, with its heavy emphasis on electric guitar and wailing lyrics, were new at the time. Many people my age accepted ownership of this sound as part of the soundtrack for our lives. Sure, we wore plaid and white T-shirts and denim and danced as though we were having some sort of body surfing wish fulfillment, but the music, we felt, was unique to our age group.

Chris Cornell's suicide by hanging is partiucularly haunting as he joins a line of West Coast lead singers and writers to succumb to alcohol and drug addiction, as well as depression, since the heyday of the Seattle Sound in the early-to-late-1990's. Here's the list I came up with that I am sure media will be covering soon enough.

- First there was Mother Love Bone lead singer Andrew Wood who was a heroin addict. He was, in a way, my generation's very own legitimate Jim Morrison, an early casualty of rising fame and drug addiction. Wood tried to get clean before Mother Love Bone's album came out. Sadly, he died in 1990 of a heroin overdose, days before "Apple" was released. Mother Love Bone only put out that sole album. Chris Cornell formed the band Temple of the Dog and the album of the same title as an epitaph for Wood.

- Kurt Cobain, the famous lead singer for Nirvana, another Seattle-based band, died in 1994 under suspicious circumstances.

- Seattle band Alice in Chains founder and lead singer Layne Staley died from drug-related complications in 2002.

- Scott Weiland, lead singer of San Diego band, Stone Temple Pilots, died of an accidental drug-and-alcohol overdose in 2015. Critics often accused STP, as they were called back then, of mimicking Eddie Vedder's rock anthem vocalist style with Pearl Jam. After three albums, though, STP proved their worth as a grunge rock band all their own. They often made a trippier and more oblique style than Pearl Jam, punctuated by severe bass guitar.

So when you learn that the frontman have died in tragic circumstances from nearly all the Seattle bands producing grunge music, whose influence you still feel 25 years later, it's an affecting realization. 

I am deeply saddened by the news of Cornell's death, yet still as thankful as ever for the music Cornell made during his lifetime. 

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