They say, always make a good first impression. I still remember the first time I saw Chris Cornell live in concert. It was at a rather intimate venue. He walked to the stage sporting a well worn plaid shirt that he had likely gotten when he first formed Soundgarden and last washed when he was in Temple Of The Dog. His hair’s grease must have been there since the start of the tour. He was remarkably thin. He looked like a 90s grunge rocker, except this was in late 2008. Chris had seen better days. His electronic pop flop Scream was a few months away from being released but he was ready to perform some of the tracks that night.
I'm lonely and I'm thirsty
But it's better I stay dry
No more than two drinks away
He placed himself at the front of the stage and grabbed the mic. His remarkable voice silenced the roaring crowd in a split second. He never sung out of tune, he never missed a beat. He was in top form throughout the night. I’ve been to a ton of shows in my life, and to this date, this one is still in my top five.
Suddenly I can see everything that's wrong with me yeah
What can I do I'm the only thing I really have at all
Pretty Noose always bothered me. It still gives me shivers every single time it comes on one of my playlists or when some radio jockey thinks no one is listening late in the night. Don’t get me wrong, I love the song, it’s one of my favorites from the Soundgarden era. Let me elaborate a bit then. When I was a child, my friend’s mom hung herself in her basement just a few doors next to us. I was way too young to comprehend that someone could willingly take their own life at that time. When I hear the words “I caught the moon today” uttered, they’re a constant reminder of not only the people in my life that have taken their lives since my friend’s mom but also of Kurt, Layne, Hoon and all the other troubled nineties rockers that ended their journeys far too early.
Diamond rope silver chain
Pretty noose is pretty pain
And I don't like
What you got me hanging from
Going back to that 2008 concert, all cues pointed to Chris being a mess: Soundgarden and Audioslave were long gone, fans had started to shout "sellout" at his upcoming album and he needed a bit of grooming. He didn’t perform Pretty Noose that night. In fact, the playlist consisted of mostly good spirited songs, or at least, as good spirited as songs from a nineties grunge rocker could be.
But when it's my time,
to throw the next stone,
ll call you beautiful,
If I call at all
Since that first impression, I’ve paid closer attention to Chris’ career. He never released another Scream. Higher Truth was much more favorably received by fans and critics alike. Soundgarden got back together. He kept scoring the title tracks for many successful films. Herein lies the problem — We often mistake people’s accomplishments for happiness. Depression doesn’t go away simply because someone is doing well in life.
I was lost in the pages
Of a book full of death
Reading how we'll die alone
And if we're good, we'll lay to rest
When I heard the news that Chris Cornell had died on May 18, 2017, I was in shock. Was it at an accident? Was it a heart attack? Did someone poison him? What happened? I listened to my favorite tunes of his throughout the day as I constantly refreshed the news on my phone for more info pertaining to his death. Of course, I was listening to Pretty Noose when I found out he had hung himself. In that moment, the shock of his death quickly dissipated. It didn’t surprise me one bit anymore — his music repertoire is filled with lyrics of depression and suicidal tendencies.
Hang my head,
drown my fear
Till you all just disappear
Chris Cornell wasn’t in his late twenties taking his life for fear that his fame would fade away. He lived twice the span of most 90s grunge frontmen. This was a man who had once overcome addiction. He was a family man. He gave away millions to help children around the world. He visited refugee camps to help out just weeks before his death. “I'm sorry you were alone, and I know that was not you, my sweet Christopher” his wife Vicky wrote in a posthumous note to her late husband.
We will all miss you Chris and your kindness. Say hello to heaven.
To be yourself is all that you can do