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Chris Cornell: A Career Retrospective

By: Cullen Ronan

Rock legend and grunge icon Chris Cornell died on Thursday morning, with the cause of death being ruled a suicide.

At age 52, the singer was found dead on the bathroom floor at the MGM Grand hotel in Georgia, following a performance earlier that night by his band Soundgarden.

The vocalist, famous for his versatility, had a lengthy and successful musical career dating back to his band Soundgarden’s 1991 release, “Badmotorfinger.” This particular record propelled Cornell and Soundgarden into the spotlight, joining the likes of grunge icons like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Soundgarden was only the beginning of Cornell’s career, as he later enjoyed a successful solo career, as well as stints in Temple of the Dog, a side project featuring Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and Audioslave, a joint venture between him and the remaining three members of Rage Against the Machine following their breakup in 2000.

However, Cornell’s talents came with baggage as he struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues throughout his illustrious career. After the initial breakup of Soundgarden, and the divorce from his first wife, Cornell’s habits began to spiral out of control, landing him in rehab in 2002.

Despite struggling with addiction throughout most of his career, Cornell managed to release 15 full-length albums, and five EP’s before his death, while also tallying a Grammy and three MTV Video Music Awards.

From this large discography, many of his songs will be cherished, but there are certainly some that stand out more than others. In the honor of Cornell’s death, listed below are some of his very best tracks, guaranteed to forever stand the test of time.


1. Temple of the Dog, “Hunger Strike”

A haunting duet featuring Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, “Hunger Strike” is a grunge fan’s dream. While Cornell and Vedder’s legacies weren’t yet cemented before Temple of The Dog’s 1991 self-titled release, their dueling vocals on this particular track foreshadowed the success both men would later achieve in their respective careers, as well as the grunge genre as a whole. Although Temple of the Dog would only end up releasing one album’s worth of material, this song will always be a favorite of Cornell fans.


2. Audioslave, “Cochise”

After the breakup of Soundgarden, fans eagerly awaited the debut release of Cornell’s next project, Audioslave. As the opening track, Tom Morello’s hard and heavy guitar riff gave us an introduction of what was to come with this new venture, and with the grittiness, we’ve come to expect from Cornell, the track features one the most powerful and catchy choruses he’d ever written.


3. Chris Cornell, “Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart”

Chosen as the lead single off of Cornell’s 2015 studio album “Higher Days”, this track was his highest charting solo track since 1999. Produced by Brendan O’Brien, who also worked with Cornell on his Soundgarden and Audioslave releases, it allowed Cornell to combine the basics we know from his distinctive voice with a new sound that teeters more on the adult contemporary side. This helped usher in something new and unique to the table for the last solo release before his death.


4. Soundgarden, “Fell On Black Days”

One of Cornell’s most legendary performances, this track was the fifth single off of 1994’s certified five-times platinum release “Superunknown.” Cornell has said the song was written from melancholy experiences chronicling his fight with depression. Cornell explained, “”Fell on Black Days” was like this ongoing fear I’ve had for years…It’s a feeling that everyone gets. You’re happy with your life, everything’s going well, things are exciting—when all of a sudden you realize you’re unhappy in the extreme, to the point of being really, really scared.” This song is a jarring reminder of the pain Cornell experienced within his life and is an especially emotional experience given the nature of his untimely death.


5. Audioslave, “Show Me How to Live”

A song perfectly showcasing the talents of every member of Audioslave, this track capitalizes on isolated vocal runs from Cornell, and ethereal fluttering effects from guitar aficionado Tom Morello. The song is a perfect blend of everything Audioslave has to offer. Constantly switching between fast tempos and high notes from Cornell, to slower tempos and grittier notes will leave the listener always on the edge of their seat. Not to mention the final note is one of Cornell’s finest moments, as he strikes his throat with the side of his hand while changing pitch to create a truly strange, but memorable effect.

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