This was originally published in May of 2017, a few days after Chris Cornell’s passing was announced. I was scheduled to cover his appearance at a music festival in Ohio and was set to drive down that morning. I wrote this piece that same day. Suffice it to say, I was a mess. I am just closing my eyes and hitting publish on this. To anyone who is struggling right now, due to COVID-19 or anything else, please consider seeking help, scroll below for resources. Everyone else, check on your friends and loved ones. You never know you may need a lifeline and when. Take care of yourself, and each other.
My alarm went off at 7am. I went to snooze it only to see a text come in at the same time. The text simply read:
“Nadia…I’m so sorry”
Immediately my mind began to spin about what could have happened to merit such a greeting so early in the morning. Then it hit me. And I hit google.
“Musician Chris Cornell dies at 52.”
I was numb. I went about my business, getting ready for the day. Driving into the office, I turned to 94.9 the Rock, and found they were playing non-stop Chris Cornell and related tunes. Then “Burden in my hand” came on, and it happened.
I burst into tears.
Chris Cornell was gone. Music will never be the same to me.
To learn today how deep that pain was, is devastating. My heart breaks for his wife and children, his bandmates and everyone whose life he touched. But most of all, my heart breaks for him. After surviving so much, his pain truly must have been insurmountable, no matter how hard he tried.
It’s not up to any of us to understand or explain why he felt the need to stop trying. We just need to mourn, honestly, with sensitivity and respect. For more information, click here. I won’t write the words myself.
Many people may wonder why his death is hitting me so hard. For me, Chris Cornell was more than just a rock star. He was more than just someone whose music I enjoyed. Yes, he was handsome as hell, but that isn’t what endeared to me so. To me, he was a symbol of sorts. When I was a teenager, he was the man that made me realize I like boys. Soundgarden made me realize what music could BE: powerful, raw, passionate, a tool to express all the things I felt when words would not suffice.
Soundgarden’s music became my obsession, my fuel, my addiction. I spent every dime I ever had on every piece of their music that I could get my broke teenage hands on. My heart shattered when they broke up before I could see them live. But Chris Cornell, bless him, kept making music, and it was he that I saw live for the first time, when he came to Toronto with Audioslave back in the early 2000s. That moment was pivotal for me, and the beginning of a thirst I realized I could never slake.
In 2010 the band reunited, and my teenage wish came true. I was in Chicago for Lollapalooza when I got wind of a small show they were doing at the Vic Theatre. Desperate to get in, I did everything I could, including flirting with a security guard at the venue. All my efforts failed, and dejected I began to walk away. I wasn’t the only one. Then I heard a voice bellow “Let them all in!”
It was a moment I’ll never forget.
For the first time I saw my heroes live, and it was everything I had ever dreamed of and more. And it happened in the most beautiful way. It was truly destiny.
From that moment on, I made sure to watch Soundgarden live at every opportunity. Any city that was flyable, drivable, whatever, I was there, with my fellow superfan Emy. No one understood the extent of our passion. But we did, and finding a partner in that was amazing.
Today we are partners in grief.
In 2012 Emy and I were lucky to see Soundgarden play their first Toronto show in years, at the Phoenix. Days before, our friend Bobby got us into a fan meet and greet at Corus Quay. Another teenage dream come true. A moment I will now treasure even more.
In 2013, a grownup dream came true: I was given the chance to photograph Soundgarden at their Toronto show at the now defunct Sound Academy. It was, and remains, a professional milestone. It was a pivotal moment in my career as a writer and photographer.
My next goal was an interview. It was always a distant possibility, but today, that hope is dead and gone, much like the man who made such an impact on my life.
To hear Chris Cornell sing was to hear pain translated into song. To listen to his music was to witness true artistry. His voice was inimitable in its range and power, his songwriting unparalleled in its complexity, craftsmanship and poignancy. Whether it’s the loudest, hardest Soundgarden banger or the sweetest, most sombre acoustic ballad, his music impacted all of us in ways we probably don’t even realize. I for one can’t put into words the impact the man and his music had on me. I’m trying with this piece, and failing miserably.
“Sleep tight for me, I’m gone”