Why is it a big deal when a celebrity dies?
Why is it such a big deal when a celebrity dies… more specifically for me, a musician? Why do people post about someone they don’t even know personally and mourn their loss?
We don’t cry because we knew Chris Cornell, we cry because he helped us know ourselves. Music is something that transcends everything. I don’t care how much money you have, what color you are, or what your religion is, music is music… it touches everyone. It sparks nostalgia, it summons emotions, it excites you, it calms you, and it can even bring you to tears.
Music was there when I was a kid riding in the back seat of my parent’s car on long trips. Music was there when I danced with “the cute girl” in junior high for the first time and when I danced with my wife on our wedding night. It was there when I hung out with my friends in high school and college or even just by myself. I remember watching MTV for the first time in the ’80s, going to hundreds of concerts, playing the drums, trying to mimic a funky beat I heard, or making up songs and singing them to my kids to make them laugh.
Chris Cornell was a major influence on Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and to so many others. He helped ignite and define the Seattle music scene, the grunge era… and an entire generation.
He was one of a few musicians who had been going strong for over 3 decades. I could probably tell you a dozen stories about my life, where I was, or what was happening in the world just by naming some of his songs. He had an amazing voice that ranged 4 octaves. For comparison and clarity, that’s almost half the notes on a piano. He could scream and yell (in tune, mind you) for several minutes, and then quiet and calm his voice to a smooth, soothing, gentle level. He made you feel each note of every song.
Chris had his demons. He struggled with drugs and alcohol and he battled through depression. And despite those being bad qualities, it proves one thing… he was human. There was always an indescribable link between Chris and his audience. People loved the man behind the microphone. Those closest to him have said that he was kind and generous. He and his wife created a charitable organization devoted to helping children in need (homelessness, poverty, abuse, and/or neglect). He was a father to 3 children, ages 12, 13, and 17. He was known as a gentle soul in the heavy metal music industry.
Chris and his talents will be missed, but his music and his influences live on. If you want to know more about who Chris Cornell was, and maybe even find out more about yourself in the process… just listen to him sing.
Victor Hugo said it best, “Music expresses that which cannot be said.”