What he wanted for himself, he gave to me. Does that make him a martyr? No, because I don’t think it’s true that he didn’t give it to himself as well. I read Chris say he actually liked treatment. It was interesting and he learned a lot. I was glad to read him saying that. I felt the same way. Recovery saved me. Ever since going through SAA and a clinic, I heard “Spoonman” differently. “Save me / I’m together with your plan.” That to me meant my program: the first workable plan I had since my paper route.
Meanwhile, my Facebook friends are dropping “RIP Chris Cornell. Love his songs.” And “OMG, Black Hole Sun was everything when I was a teenager.” The sentiment seems shallow, and that’s something Cornell might have detested. But it can’t be helped, and another of his song’s sentiment applies: Just keep it off my wave.
I never miss an opportunity to rail against the inadequacy of social media, and I won’t miss this one either. Never more than when someone dies does the flippancy of social (noun) sting; never does its convenience and ubiquity speak louder than its actual content; never is its sentiment less discernible, more mistakable, than when we are really hurting. Never does it seem more insincere than when we need authentic clarity and condolence.
My idolization of Cornell is funny, because I see TV trailers about heroes, and I see movie posters with Captain America, and I tell myself that these archetypes are done to death. (Even the cape and tight jokes are done to death.) Superman: strength personified. Batman: revenge personified. But it turns out I am not immune to these figures, because I’d have to say that it’s Cornell’s incredible strength of voice that made him luminous to me. The guy had pipes from here to Thursday. I’ve watched Youtube’s of a professional singing coach demonstrating Cornell’s “compression” style, particularly with Audioslave tracks. Watching these you get the idea the amount of work it takes to move that much air under control for 3, 4, 5 minutes. At UPAC, I watched Cornell do it for 120 minutes, without so much as a few sips of water.
And as we all know from trying, singing powerfully in the upper register can be painful to an untrained voice.
That strength of voice spoke to his strength of character, if you’ll forgive the platitude. But what indicates strong character? As we know from our leaders, it’s not declarations of victory and posture of infallibility. It’s admissions of struggle, and subsequent endurance. Some of Cornell’s best lyrical work, his best songwriting, comes when he writes of doubts and inner conflict. Cornell was very open this way, lyrically.
holy water on the brain
and I’m losing sleep
holy bible on the nightstand
next to me
This from “Holy Water,” a song in which it’s the soaring length of the chorus’s first “Yeahhhhhhhh” that colors Cornell’s vocal attitude a brighter shade than mere dour, faithless complaint. He was no grungy Debbie Downer; he was always a man searching, and to that all fans can relate. I know as an addict what he meant in saying, in “Fell On Black Days,” that “I’m only faking / when I get it right.”