Remember the days when you paid a small fee and CDs showed up in the mail? Sometimes they’d pile up, with little time to extract them from their nail-breaking plastic wrap. I was not familiar with Chris Cornell until a few years ago, when another writer waxed on about Soundgarden. I decided to give the group a try. Didn’t grab me. But shortly after, I stumbled on an unwrapped Out of Exile, Audioslave, hiding among the CDs I’d moved around with more than once. Things changed.
I was unaware that Chris Cornell was the lead singer of both groups, and for reasons I cannot yet articulate, I prefer Audioslave to Soundgarden. I cannot tell you Cornell’s long and rich history – that’s not what this post is about. It’s about discovering a voice that provided both relief and connection, and the sadness that there will be no more vocals from that source – a relationship, a life, that has ended too early.
I grew up with funk, hip-hop, and rap. My first concert was Lionel Richie and the Pointer Sisters. After that, Fat Boys and Whodini. Then, the ultimate: Prince (still reeling). Obviously, my musical background was not pure rock and roll. I played catch-up in college, starting with Steve Miller, on to Zepplin and another favorite, Hendrix. I scoured the vinyl my husband owns, which ranges from The Beatles, Waylon Jennings, Molly Hatchet, to Mother’s Finest (and all of Prince). Newer rock simply had not made it into my repertoire, and that writer whose admiration for Cornell’s vocals and lyrics prompted me to listen for myself.
Hence, the synchronicity of finding that unwrapped CD in my own dusty collection – particularly during a time when the CD player lies dormant, my cell phone my source of music. I may have been about ten years late in discovering Cornell’s voice, but that became a moot point. I listened. I balked at what I’d been missing.
The connection we make with voices and lyrics is, in a large part, personal. What makes me like the songs on Out of Exile ? Cornell’s voice. It’s the vulnerability that it exudes – an excruciating balance of the masculine and the feminine, mixed with the authenticity and rawness of his vocals against screaming guitars. He soars and slays, and offers no apologies for what he conjures. His vocals were/are a vehicle for the fragile self that battles with the stuff of life. May he rest in peace, and may all of your tomorrows shine.