On May 18, 2017, perhaps one of the greatest and few remaining voices in rock n’ roll was suddenly and unexpectedly silenced. Chris Cornell, aged 52, died of complications yet to be revealed, in the middle of a tour with his band Soundgarden -- the greatest rock band on Earth. Period.
Certainly there are worse ways to go, and one does not need look outside the periphery of the incestuous Seattle scene where his origins lie, to realise that.
Andrew Wood, singer for the band Mother Love Bone, died at the age of 24 from an overdose of heroin.
Kurt Cobain, of that one band that even your grandma probably knows about, infamously shot himself (with a shotgun no less) at the age of 27 because of his depression.
Layne Staley, former singer for Alice in Chains, in a poetic twist of fate, died on the same date as that of Cobain, from an overdose of pretty much everything, at the age of 34.
There’s a reason why rock music was so dark and dreary back in the early 90s. The music that came out of that scene was made mostly by kids who had to stay indoors a lot, and the only way that they felt they could express themselves was either through the noise they made using a guitar and some glorified pots and pans or by huffing, smoking, and snorting everything under the sun -- sometimes both.
Chris Cornell was an exception to that rule.
Seeing him perform in concerts, even if it was through the noise-ridden filter of a VHS recording back in the day or the soulless sheen of a YouTube video now, it was evident that this guy was built to perform music
Piecing together information from the volumes of interviews he’s given, not to mention the songs he’s written, it’s not like Cornell was averse to drugs and alcohol -- far from it, actually. But he had a certain spirit in him that all his contemporaries lacked.
Seeing him perform in concerts, even if it was through the noise-ridden filter of a VHS recording back in the day or the soulless sheen of a YouTube video now, it was evident that this guy was built to perform music.
Standing at the towering height of six-foot-god-knows-what, Cornell commanded the attention of his audience -- whether through his trademark shriek in classics such as Soundgarden’s “Slaves and Bulldozers” or his newfound ability to croon in more recent tracks like “The Keeper.”
The man is rock n’ roll personified … at least to me.
Listening to Soundgarden’s “Zero Chance” was a defining moment in my life. It was perhaps the first song that I remember dismantling every element of at an instrument level, and standing in awe of the craftsmanship that went into it -- a testament to the chemistry that bandmates Chris, Ben, Kim, and Matt shared.
Of course, it helped that the songwriting struck a chord, if you’d pardon the pun, with my 19-year-old brain, which was still battling with crippling social anxiety and a general fear of everyone that wasn’t me.
His work changed me, and, as someone who is a product of everything he listens to, it changed me for the better.
No matter what the cynics say, about how the world is kept spinning by the cold numbers and jagged graphs of commerce and business, let it be known that art is what ultimately shapes the people inhabiting it.
Rest in peace, Chris.
Rubaiyat Kabir is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. He can be followed on Twitter @moreanik.