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May 23, 2017

Thinking About Chris

This is not a recipe. I’m sorry. I’m finding it difficult to cook lately, but hopefully that energy will return soon. But I wanted to write about something else. Or rather, someone else. This has been on my mind for the past few days and I think writing it out will help me… move on? Heal? I don’t even know. But I know I need to write it.

 


 

A friend in Atlanta had texted me early in the morning last Thursday, before I woke up: “Omg the news.” The news? With the way things are, I braced myself for some wild political shenanigan. Instead, when I opened my Twitter feed, I immediately knew why she had texted. Chris Cornell Dead at 52, one tweet after another said. I kept blinking, but it didn’t change.

Chris Cornell had died, and later it would be revealed that he had committed suicide just a few hours after playing a show in Detroit Wednesday night.

 


King Animal tour, 2/7/13 at the Paramount Theater in Seattle

 

The top photo is from last summer, when I drove out to Yakima to see him at The Capitol Theater. It was just him and his supporting cellist Bryan Gibson playing the entire set. He chatted with the crowd, and joked about how a mandolin had made its way into “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart” (he had loaned it to a friend years ago and the friend finally made him take it back). He sang songs from Higher Truth, and other selections from his vast catalog of work, including “Wooden Jesus,” one of my favorites and a song I never thought I would see live.

I don’t deal well with crowds, so I don’t go to many concerts. There are only three musicians/bands that I get really excited to see, and he was one of them. I have seen Chris Cornell play solo multiple times over the years, and when Soundgarden first began touring again in 2013 for King Animal, I was so thrilled that I saw them three times in the span of five months.

I was going to see them again on Thursday. The ticket is still pinned to my fridge, under a Polaroid I had taken at the 2013 Boston show. Kim Thayil is in the foreground, eyes cast down on to his guitar, while Chris looks on from the back.

 


King Animal tour, 1/20/13 at the Orpheum in Boston — I got the date wrong

 

The shows were electric, even if the only things on stage with him were his guitar, a microphone, and a stool. He brought an energy and presence to every show that I don’t have the capacity or skill to describe, but you can hear it in his songs and in that voice that sinks right into the marrow of your bones.

Chris Cornell’s music — with Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, and solo — found me at a time when I needed it. Listening to his music felt like coming home. In every band and on every album, he brought his Chris Cornell-y weirdness: strange, off-balance melodies that shouldn’t work but do; atmospheric lyrics; and an almost terrifying sincerity. All of this cemented him into the soundtrack of my life. I did not know him, but it felt so much like we understood one another. His songs were affirmations and challenges. In his words and melodies, I found what I wanted to say.

 


Carry On tour, 4/19/07 at the Avalon in Boston

 

I keep expecting him to pop up again: a tweet, a new song, an interview. How is it that he’s gone when I can still hear him? How is it that he’s gone when I can still remember him so clearly?

Chris Cornell’s music has been and still is a constant companion in my life. I don’t think that will change. But I feel as though I have lost a kindred spirit, and someone who has been an anchor whenever I became unmoored. And beyond that, he just seemed like an incredible human being. He was kind and generous, doted on his family, and regularly collaborated with other artists. He has given so much of himself to the world, and I hope that he knew how grateful we all are, and how much he has meant to so many people.

 

 

I found an old video clip I had recorded during one of his solo shows in 2009. It is 20-something seconds of him playing “Seasons,” and the footage is grainy and sideways, and the sound buzzes because my Canon Powershot could not handle the volume. But despite it all, his voice sails through — a low, aching grumble:

“Sleeping with a full moon blanket
Sand and feathers for my head
Dreams have never been the answer
And dreams have never made my bed
Dreams have never made my bed

And I’m lost, behind
The words I’ll never find
And I’m left, behind
As the seasons roll on by.”

 


King Animal tour, 2/7/13 at the Paramount Theater in Seattle

 

Rest in peace, Chris. I love you, and I miss you.

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