Chris Cornell: Music Icon Gets His Final Grammy.

Photo Credit; The Cornell Family.

The day was Saturday, April 29th, 2017. It was late at night, and it was my first rock festival I’d ever attended. It was Jacksonville, Florida’s annual “Welcome to Rockville.” This was my first time experiencing all of the sights and scents, with the giant Ferris wheel at Metropolitan Park behind me and the ever-so-repulsive combination of thousands of vape smells mixed in with different brands of cigarettes and marijuana. I’ve never smoked (and still haven’t to this day), so the vile redolence was a brand new thing to me. But, there I was, with my sister on one side of me and an old friend trying to throw me up into the air for my very first crowdsurf amongst an absolute mass of humanity having the time of my life. On the stage was the most captivating man I had ever seen up to that point: Chris Cornell as he and the rest of Soundgarden were performing hits such as “Rusty Cage”, “Outshined” and “Jesus Christ Pose.”

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Cornell at Welcome Rockville 2017. Credit: Soundlink Magazine.

I, a big fan of the ‘90s Seattle Grunge scene, recognized the greatness of the 1991 album “Badmotorfinger.” It was Soundgarden’s third studio album, and just a year previously had seen its silver anniversary. It was truly a spectacle. The album ultimately went certified double platinum and landed them a major tour with Guns’N’Roses. It was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance,” ultimately losing to the iconic Metallica record now commonly referred to as “The Black Album.” The other nominations for the award were Anthrax’s “Attack of the Killer B’s”, Motorhead’s “1916” and Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace.” It was a major year for metal, but ultimately a complete and utter breakthrough for the Seattle grunge scene, and this set up for the beloved “In Utero” album released by Nirvana just a year after. Following Pearl Jam’s “Ten” in 1991, it was wondered if the genre had peaked, and Soundgarden was there to let you know that it was just beginning. As for the Cornell-led quintet, the group’s following only grew when they released their fourth studio album “Superunknown”, which will see its own silver anniversary this year, only with Chris not being around to celebrate.  With hits such as “Spoonman” and “Fell on Black Days”, it has sold 9 million copies and has gone platinum 5 times. Cornell received two Grammy’s in 1995. The first was for the “Best Metal Performance”, and he won it with Spoonman. The second was the “Best Hard Rock Performance” for “Black Hole Sun.” Even with nominations for “Pretty Noose”, “Can’t Change Me” and Audioslave’s “Like a Stone”, he’d never get the opportunity to accept another Grammy.

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Chris is a top 3 vocalist of all-time for me, and the show was a major bucketlist. Cornell had a rather impressive vocal range, unique voice and very impressive and powerful delivery that made his performances very moving and worth the price of admission. There’s Freddie Mercury of Queen. There’s George Michael of WHAM! Then there’s Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. His songwriting is unmatched, as he rips into raw emotion and pulls out the sorrow and despair that lays deep down inside of all of us, verbalizes it and plays your emotions like it’s a bass guitar. It’s there-within laid the true greatness of a man who portrayed a pivotal part in defining a generation of rebel-rockers in the mutinous 1990s.

3 weeks after that glorious April night, I went into school late because my sister had a doctor’s appointment. We had just pulled into the parking garage of said doctor’s office when our local classic rock station, “96.9 The Eagle” broke the news that Chris Cornell had been found hung in his Detroit hotel room after a show the previous night. I sat there, stunned, with a macabre feeling because I had just seen one of my heroes no less than a month before his death. This a man, who I’d never met, but made me feel a way that I previously hadn’t been able to vocalize. The magnitude of his death was amplified into my head because of how big of a fan I was; and have since become. I even wrote a tribute to him in my High School yearbook last year. Some people are impacted by the musicians in the industry that come and go. A musician as amazingly talented as a Chris Cornell doesn’t come or go, or fade after he’s gone. Great music is timeless, and I’m grateful that great music is so much more accessible in the digital society of 2019. Cornell was 52.

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In September of last year, it was reported that he had unreleased work and different versions of hit songs such a “Seasons” from the Singles soundtrack and any of his hits with Soundgarden, Audioslave or Temple of Dog. This was compiled, and subsequently released in an album I just bought two and a half weeks ago. This was the first new album I’ve bought a physical copy of in years. The set featured a new song that was released for radio. The song was called “When Bad Does Good.” Just how impactful was this song to those who founded themselves with their ear pressed to the radio?

Chris Cornell won the Grammy for best rock performance last night, because of the song. 25 years after he won his last 2 Grammy’s. His 14 year old daughter and 13 year old son accepted the award on behalf of the Cornell family. Cornell’s song beat out multiple of rock’s fresh upstarts of Greta Van Fleet and The Fever 333, as well as beating out an already well-established Halestorm to win the award.

For the Cornell family, and an avid fan who still has “Reach Down” by Temple of the Dog streaming on his Spotify routinely, seeing Cornell get one last Grammy was a peaceful end to an unfortunate tragedy just 21 months ago. Chris Cornell hasn’t faded away.

Because of bands like Soundgarden, I have become a regular at my local festival and ended up seeing some major bucket list bands up close; like Def Leppard, Billy Idol, Foo Fighters and Avenged Sevenfold.

Thank you, Chris.

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