I have been trying desperately to wrap my thoughts around the death of Chris Cornell. Since his death I have felt a multitude of feelings from sadness to anger and after a lot of thought, I will try to put into words exactly each of those feelings.
As a teenager, Sound Garden and then his following band Audio Slave were my escape from my teen angst and depression. Like it did for many, his lyrics and the music itself spoke to me in my dark place as a friend saying “it’s going to be okay”. While I never actually contemplated suicide, I did a lot of dark journaling and often thought about what the world would be like if I didn’t exist. Honestly, I don’t think thi is uncommon for teenagers because lets be frank-growing up is fucking hard-and there’s no other way to say it.
As an adult those thoughts have long passed and I am forever grateful for the music which I feel got me through those moments of desperation. Music was and still is my sanctuary. While many of the “friends” who’s songs helped get me through those moments are now gone, lost to drugs or suicide, it had been long enough that I think most of us who had grown up on that music and who had survived the era had felt good in the fact that we had made it. Additionally, Chris in particular seemed to keep reinventing himself and getting better and better-which I didn’t think was musically possible.
While his death doesn’t really come to a shock for anyone who combed over his lyrics (like myself), it is shocking to think that an era of music has died. I listen to the “rock” of today and am saddened much like my parents before me must have been in the 70’s when another era of music was gone. With the death of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin along with Jim Morrison and even Elvis Presley, it had so feel like rock was gone forever.
While the sounds of Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Sound Garden and Pearl Jam were different from the sounds of the past, they were all derivatives of the classics. I realize that I’m not only saddened by his death, but I am saddened that a whole genre is almost dead. The only vocalist left from those mentioned is Eddie Vedder. That is an extremely humbling fact to sit on for any music lover, especially those of my generation who used these bands as their therapy.
I wonder where the teens of today go for their respite because it clearly isn’t in music. I shudder to think about where I would have turned without music there for me.
I’m selfishly angry. I feel like the folks who helped my generation through the hard times sort of knew their power in lyrics and riffs. They got us through the hard times but couldn’t get themselves through it. I never got to see Sound Garden or Chris Cornell (specifically), play. I feel like in a sense these musicians feel like they did their jobs and now they can move on to their higher plane. But that’s not fair! I want to scream and say “fuck you!” You don’t have a right to harm yourself after all we’ve been through. We made it dammit! We’re the survivors! Now we have to get our own kids through their own shit. But you can’t because you’re gone.
I feel like the lyrics to his songs have changed in meaning for me as well as I have aged. They are even more personal now that I live in Seattle, the birthplace of all the grunge rock bands mentioned. What’s even weirder is that I literally live about 2 miles from Jimi Hendrix’s grave. I definitely feel the music as it continues to play on our stations out here in a different way. In fact, the day before Cornell took his life, I sat in traffic on yet another dark dreary Seattle day thinking about the lyrics to Black Hole Sun which I hadn’t heard in a long time but had come to mind for a completely different reason than it did when I was a teenager.
Back then, I took the lyrics to mean a darkened and dirty soul or imperfect person washing away all that is good in their lives. Obviously, this isn’t what anyone would want, but there is this evil force that pulls you to do these things that you don’t want to do. I was a very dramatic teen…
Now as an adult sitting in traffic in the Seattle rain, I wondered if in fact he didn’t write the song about the Seattle rain that seems to drone on for months on end in what seems to black out the sun completely leaving a black hole in the clouds where the sun should be and he is begging the sun to “wash away the rain”. I thought a lot about where he might have been in his life and what he was really thinking and how the lyrics of his songs have changed for me as we have aged and matured.
I’m sad. While we have aged and matured and changed, sometimes it takes more than music to get us out of the depression. His music told us that we were not alone, I just wish he had felt the same.
I thought we had survived but really there are some of us still struggling. Let your friends, neighbors, children know that you are their safe place. They can trust you with their struggles without judgement. Their lives depend on it.
I took this photo of a waterfall in Seattle and played Black Hole Sun on the way home.