On Thursday, the rock world lost Chris Cornell, one of the great frontmen of the last 30 years. The singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave took his own life after a Soundgarden show in Detroit, though his family believes that Cornell’s death might have been caused by medication he was taking for anxiety. Surely more details will filter out in the coming weeks and months, but in the meantime, I’d rather talk about on Cornell’s extraordinary life and music, so I recorded a special “emergency” episode of the podcast to do just that.
I wrote this yesterday shortly after hearing that Cornell had died:
With his darkly handsome good looks, long locks and breathtaking arena-rock voice, Cornell could’ve coasted on his natural frontman charisma. (He was the rare ’90s singer influenced by old-school hard rock who could’ve easily slotted into one of those ’70s bands.)
<p>But during this period, Cornell started evolving into one of the best and most underrated songwriters of the grunge generation. Cornell’s talent was always finding a place for melody and intimacy in the space of enormous rock songs. He could swing the hammer of the gods, but he did it with finesse and sensitivity. All of my favorite Soundgarden songs — “Rusty Cage,” “Fell On Black Days,” “‘The Day I Tried To Live,” “4th of July,” “Blow Up The Outside World” — take unexpected turns. Cornell might slip a beautiful bridge into the angriest rager, an insightful lyric inside of a scream, a nod to the Stooges beneath the thickest Sabbath riff. There were more facets to Chris Cornell’s art than he usually got credit for.</p>
Joining me in remembering Cornell are Celebration Rock producer Derek Madden and critic and poet Hanif Abdurraqib, who wrote his own moving tribute.
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