Chris Cornell – A Friend I Never Really Knew

Today has been a very strange day. I feel like I lost a friend I really never knew. We met once, a very long time ago, but our relationship was built off of a realization on humanity and was limited to my love of his music.

I’m talking about Chris Cornell. He was the lead singer of the band Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog. He also had a very interesting solo career. He was a man who’s music means an awful lot to me. He took his own life and we’ll never understand exactly why he did this, but it is well know he had his demons that showed publicly in his music and when he talked about his depression openly in the media. By all accounts things were going swimmingly for him. In the middle of a spring world tour, I was hoping to see the band on Monday the 22nd in Denver, and looking forward to creating more music with Soundgarden. So it is hard to understand what caused him to stop this. But I’m not going to talk about this. I want to write about the relationship I had with Chris, a relationship that was 99.999% one-way.

Back in October 1989 Soundgarden was playing a show at Denver’s Rock Island nightclub. My friend Doug Goldman and I, also dragging my then girlfriend now wife along for fun, met Chris and lead guitarist Kim Thayil under the auspices of doing an interview for the college radio station we worked at. It was more of a hangout than an interview thanks in part to a Rolling Stone interview with Axel Rose where he mentioned them along with Elton John as being music he was currently listening to. It was a big deal for us because Chris and Kim were our age and just seemed to be in awe of their impending stardom as we were in awe of them. It was the first time I’d met “Big-Time” musicians. But thanks to Chris and Kim’s humanity I realized that famous people, and they weren’t really that famous yet, that was still to come, were human and had the same fears, emotions, and challenges as we did. It was a big learning experience for me. That was the base of the relationship I had with Chris.

Next to my family, music is the most important thing in my life. That is the second part of the relationship I have with Chris Cornell because his music is a constant in my life. I always have music in my head. It’s like this ongoing motion picture soundtrack for whatever is going on at the moment, (Sometimes I wish Martin Scorsese or James Gunn was directing me.) and Soundgarden or some other Chris Cornell song is a regular contributor to this soundtrack. Here’s the interesting thing, it doesn’t matter the mood, Chris has a tune for all moments, there is always a song that can fit the moment providing the perfect audio color for the moment. But I have a similar relationship with dozens, I mean dozens, of musicians and bands. Willie Nelson, for instance, was my soundtrack while I was on a conference call yesterday with a client.

Let me get to point of this so I can go to bed, but I think I may ramble a bit more, hang on.

I have been fortunate in my life.  Other than 3 or four grandparents, I have not lost any family members. The closest person to die, outside of family, was my best friend’s wife. So I have not yet had to work through the emotions of losing someone close to me.  I know it is coming at some point and I’d like to think I am prepared for the moment, but I know I will not be. These losses are personal losses, losing someone you have a deep two-way relationship with. But what about the personal relationship I have with Chris Cornell? Why do I feel such a loss? Is it because of my lack of emotional experience in losing someone closer to me? I don’t think so.

For me the loss of Chris Cornell hits on two fronts. For his family and friends and those he created music with. The loss of a husband, father, and friend  under these circumstances is just sad, period. Then there’s the loss of what the future held for those Chris created with. What is going to be lost now that we will never be able to experience? First on that list for me is the concert on Monday night. Then there’s the music he would have created with his Soundgarden bandmates later this year, or maybe the guys from Temple of Dog would have gotten together again because of the success they had last fall in their five show tour. There’s also the possibility of Audioslave coming together again. What did he have up his sleeve for  another solo album? it’s endless.

For me the personal loss I am feeling is that there will never be any new music from Chris Cornell. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for what he left us, but imagine what could have been. For me, and maybe this is selfish because a wife lost a husband and kids lost a father, but for me the personal loss is the what could have been added to my soundtrack. (I love new music and was always excited for what Chris or any number of my favorite artists are producing.) This is why I am sad today.

I do want to say thanks to Chris Cornell for the life you lived. Perhaps this was the ending that was going to happen no matter what and you could only push it off so long. But you should know that you made this brain and these ears very happy with your artistic efforts.

Thank you Chris Cornell for your music and for your time 18 years ago. You made a difference in one life.

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