By the Way

Chris Cornell — rock’s biggest voice will not be silenced, not even in death

Chris Cornell died Wednesday in Detroit. He was 52.
Chris Cornell died Wednesday in Detroit. He was 52. AP File

Chris Cornell, the singer/songwriter who has fronted both Soundgarden and Audioslave as well as a lucrative solo career, died Wednesday night in Detroit, according to a representative. He was 52.

He was 52. He was 52. He was 52. Regardless of how many times I type that, it doesn’t seem real.

I woke up Thursday morning to the sad news that Chris had passed away. Chris Cornell, who had one of the biggest voices in rock music, is no longer alive. He was one of the greatest singers in rock music, with a place firmly beside Robert Plant, Janis Joplin, Roger Daltry, Bon Scott and Brian Johnson (both of AC/DC) and Axl Rose.

I met Chris for the first time in probably 1991, and I was around him several times after that. I’m not trying to pretend that we were friends, because that is not the truth. We certainly weren’t adversaries, but merely acquaintances. But I will never forget my times being in the presence of greatness.

Chris’s untimely death, however, will affect a lot of people. He’s a very good friend of my friend and rock photographer Danny Clinch, as well as several other people I know. It hurts my soul to know they will be grieving.

Chris was the crown prince of the Seattle rock scene — he was very well respected and he was everyone’s favorite singer. He had a voice that was both piercing and fierce, as well as beautiful and haunting. He was the epitome of rock singers.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will find out what took Chris’ life. I can almost assure you it won’t be drugs or anything of that nature. Chris was not that kind of guy, as he has lost many friends to drug overdoses through the years including former Mother Lovebone singer Andy Wood and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains. But then again, we never truly know what someone is going through or what is happening behind closed doors.

I’m going to stay away from the “he was the voice of a generation” nonsense because he was bigger than that. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform many times during his short life and I’m very grateful for that. Some people have “it” and some don’t — he definitely had “it.” He was one of the best performers I’ve seen. And while cowardly death may have taken this kind man from our lives, his gigantic voice will not be silenced by his departure — it will only grow stronger.

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