The passing of Chris Cornell at the age of just 52 has been keenly felt by fans and those within the music industry.
Cornell played a key role in popularising the grunge sound of the 1990s, and has left behind a back catalogue of work to savour.
And while the details surrounding the cause of his death remain unclear, one thing is certain: Cornell was a true pioneer of his time and someone who truly pushed the boundaries of what rock’n’roll meant to the masses.
First with Soundgarden, then with Audioslave, via a stint with grunge supergroup Temple of the Dog, and most recently as a solo artist, Cornell was always finding new ways to impress and astound.
There are countless examples of his musical artistry on offer from down the years – here are just five of Cornell’s finest musical moments.
R.I.P. Chris. You will be sorely missed.
Spoonman – Soundgarden
Soundgarden were already well established on the grunge scene by the time they hit it big with Spoonman, a song originally written for Cameron Crowe’s movie Singles.
While the title of the track was actually one of the names suggested for the fictional band that features in the movie (they settled on Citizen Dick in the end) this recording does actually include some genuine spoon work from Artis the Spoonman.
A cult street performer in Soundgarden’s native Seattle, if you listen carefully, you can actually hear him playing during the song’s bridge. Strange as that may have been, the song proved to be something of a breakthrough for the group, as the first single off the multi-platinum Superunknown, and actually broke into the US Alternative Top 10.
Cochise – Audioslave
When it was first announced that Cornell would be teaming up with Rage Against The Machine trio Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk fans were, understandably, excited.
And the hype appeared to be very much justified when the group unveiled its debut single, Cochise which, to this day remains an absolute banger, fusing everything that made both Rage and Soundgarden such musical forces in the first place.
The perfect blend of 70s hard rock and a few more 90s sensibilities thrown in for good measure, the song even reached the UK top 40 and was quickly followed up by the similarly excellent Like A Stone.
Though the band ultimately broke up after three solid albums in the space of four years, a recent reunion had sparked hope of a revival. Still, this slice of early 2000s rock that remains more relevant than much of what was being produced by bands at the time and since.
Hunger Strike – Temple Of The Dog
Conceived by Cornell as a tribute to his late friend and former Mother Love Bone lead singer Andrew Wood, Temple of the Dog consisted of Wood’s former band mates Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament along with Mike McCready and Matt Cameron.
The real coup came in recruiting fellow Seattle grunge scene icon and Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder to provide lead and backing vocals on several tracks.
The group produced one self-titled album in 1991, with Hunger Strike the undoubted highlight, combining the vocal talents of Vedder and Cornell to great effect.
Something of a sleeper hit over the years that followed, the band reunited for the 25th anniversary of the LP’s release last year and, to this day, Hunger Strike remains an unbridled and emotive joy to behold.
You Know My Name – Chris Cornell
In the great pantheon of Bond themes, Cornell’s effort for Casino Royale is one that often gets overlooked and it’s a crying shame.
Far and away the best effort from the Craig 007 era (sorry Adele fans!), Cornell wrote the song alongside long-time Bond composer David Arnold.
Enlisted to help reflect the dramatic new direction the franchise was taking with Craig, Cornell’s song did the trick, though it did not come easy, with Cornell writing in Paris while Arnold worked from his London home.
Inspired by Tom Jones’ Thunderball and Paul McCartney’s Live And Let Die, according to Cornell, the Soundgarden legend also did the sensible thing and flatly refused to shoehorn the title of the movie, Casino Royale, into the lyrics. Good move.
Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
Soundgarden’s signature track and the song that established the group as a global force remains a stone cold classic and yet, according to Cornell, took just 15 minutes to write.
Cornell had his doubts about the track though. “I wrote the song thinking the band wouldn’t like it—then it became the biggest hit of the summer,” he said in an interview years later.
Combining the group’s grunge-based sound with some more mainstream rock sensibilities, the song reached the top of the US Mainstream Billboard Rock charts and was a big factor in Superunknown amassing some 10 million sales globally.
Boasting an iconic video directed by Howard Greenhalgh, the song regularly features on top 100 guitar track listings and even appeared on the 2007 game Rock Band.
Covered countless times by everyone from Peter Frampton to Anastacia, it also peaked at no.12 in the UK top 40 and will forever be synonymous with Soundgarden, which is a pretty impressive legacy to leave behind in itself.
Nevertheless, Cornell will truly be missed. A musical maverick who battled back from the brink on numerous occasions and will be fondly remembered by fans and critics alike.
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