I loved Chris Cornell from the first time I heard his majestic voice singing with Soundgarden (the best band name ever) on a bootleg of Ultramega OK. Then came Louder Than Love, and then I saw what he looked like, and I was done. Madly in love. When Badmotorfinger came out and I heard "Outshined" and its perfect lyric, "I'm looking California, and feeling Minnesota", I thought sure the man was singing directly to me. I finally got to see Cornell sing live at Lollapalooza in 1992, and it nearly ruined me. I was crazy about him ... like friends would give me special magazines with him on the cover for my birthday. It was a well known crush.
I worked on the movie Feeling Minnesota that shot in Minnesota and starred Keanu Reeves, and I wore my Carhartt crew jacket with that logo around for years because it had that Soundgarden connection to it. I was a dork about Chris Cornell, ok? I remember hearing that when he cut off his trademark long curls, he had sent them in an envelope to his wife at the time, Susan Silver. I thought it was the most romantic thing ever, and loved him even more.
Then it came time to make the move, and both look and feel California. I made the move to Los Angeles, to go after my own dreams. I saw Soundgarden's last show at Universal Amphitheater (gone now too), touring for Down On The Upside, and it was transcendent. We couldn't believe they were breaking up when they were so awesome. Cornell then went solo, and his first solo album Euphoria Morning meant the world to me. My brother, Paul and I went to see his solo show at The Wiltern, and a kind security guy saw the adoration on my face, and escorted us down to two empty seats in like the third row. At one point, during a solo version of "Black Hole Sun" (one of my all time favorite songs ever), Cornell pointed right at Paul and I, and I think we both actually swooned. He was one of the guys that other guys wanted to be, and girls just wanted. It was a moment we both still remember.
We saw many Audioslave shows, from out on Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Jimmy Kimmel show to the Long Beach Arena, all excellent and the best times ever. I was always way too timid about approaching Cornell, thinking I wouldn't hold it together, because it was CHRIS CORNELL. Tom had a party at his house one day and I was in the kitchen putting some dip in the oven, and was bent over with my butt out. Someone walked behind me and said, "Excuse me", and I turned around to see Chris Cornell smiling. He said, "Hi, I'm Chris" ... and I don't even think I even said anything back, maybe "Hi" - I was definitely fazed. By this time, he had a new French wife, and she was there too, so that was pretty much that, I never got to really flirt. I remember being disappointed that he was (always) wearing a Van Dutch tank top ... it just didn't seem like a thing for a grunge icon to wear, you know? Especially all the time. That, and his second solo album, seemed just cheesy. I never thought I'd think that! He'd lost a little of his luster to me, but he was still Chris Cornell, with the Stradivarius of all rock voices.
Then one day, Cornell left Audioslave, never even telling them why. After praising Tom as "his angel that had saved him" from the stage during a show. After a historic show in Cuba. No warning, just gone. That tainted him further for me, as Tom was a good friend, and I felt deserved better than that. I went on tour with Tom for his solo "Justice Tour" as The Nightwatchman. Cornell's ex-wife, Susan, was along on the tour, as one of the only other women along. I got a nearly fatal spider bite in New Orleans, and by the time I dealt with it in Boston, it was really bad. Susan was there for me. She was and is a wonderful, exceptional woman, and I couldn't believe how cold Cornell now appeared to be toward her and their daughter, Lily. I remember - especially today - how I stood next to Susan as Shooter Jennings sang the Cornell lyrics on Audioslave's "I Am The Highway", and tears filled her eyes. I felt her pain that day, and I feel it again today. Susan returned my email of deepest sympathy today, saying, "It is the words of kindness and support that get us through this darkest hour." That is always true ... It's just such an incredible loss - and once again, so unnecessary. No one knows what someone is going through inside, and it's so important just to love everyone WHILE we have them ... not in retrospect.
I saw Soundgarden at The Wiltern in 2013 with Perry Farrell and his wife, Etty. By now, I'd been on tour with Jane's Addiction the previous Summer, and had become good friends with the Farrells. Perry knew that Etty and I LOVED some Chris Cornell, and hooked it up, even though they didn't seem to be particularly close. There had long been rumors that "Jesus Christ Pose" was about Perry (in that one famous picture posing on a bed), and that didn't really sit well. We entered The Wiltern in a cool VIP way that you drive under the theater and park below. We had seats in the balcony, and the show was great, of course, but there seemed to be a little lounge act schtick in Cornell's stage banter. It was hard to have thoughts of him that were anything less than adulatory, but ... we left early. I regret that today, for sure. (The show was filmed for The Artist's Den, so I did see it all back home).
I last saw Chris Cornell singing on stage this past January at the Anti-Inaugural Ball thrown by the Prophets Of Rage on Inauguration Day. He was a special surprise guest, and when he came out to the opening chords of "Cochise" ... the place literally went crazy. I went crazy.
It looked as though all had been forgiven, and all the Audioslave guys were together on stage again, hugging, smiling, and most importantly ROCKING. It seemed like Cornell had found a new peace, with his wife and children, and even Soundgarden back together and touring again. Then last night he ended the Soundgarden show in Detroit with a song not on the set list, a cover of Zeppelin's "In My Time Of Dying". It looks like this was a planned exit ... that no one can even begin to understand or believe. It's too awful. It's too massive. It's simply heartbreaking.
There have been some massive losses in music in recent times, and I cried this morning when I heard the cover of Cornell singing Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U". Nothing will ever compare to either of these musical angels.
Thank you for your life and music, Chris. You and your songs will never be forgotten. I'm so sorry for your pain. Rock in Peace.