“So I blow out the candle, and I put you to bed. Since you can´t say to me now how the dogs broke your bone. There’s just one thing left to be said…Say hello to heaven.” — Chris Cornell
Like everyone, I woke up this morning to learn of the heartbreaking news of Chris Cornell’s death. Looking back at the past couple years, it’s easy to feel numb to celebrity and musicians passing at this point. Yet as a millennial, I find myself experiencing the same things my older siblings, uncles and parents did: Encountering the deaths of those I’ve looked up to. People I knew.
While I never knew Chris Cornell, he spoke to me through his brilliant music. Through tones of love, anger, sweetness, depression, despair and exhilaration, Cornell — through his groups Soundgarden, Audiosolave and his solo career — was a master of expressing emotions through music. It sure helped that he had one of the most gifted, powerful rock voices in music history.
Cornell was an incredibly talented songwriter, guitar player and legend of rock who managed to endure from the 90s grunge scene, into the 2000’s with a killer solo career and great run with a second band. His talent and musical drive were so pure — so majestic — he was never meant to fade away.
When I saw the text this morning from my brother, I was truly in shock. The thing that kept hitting me hardest was his age: 52. 52 freeken years old.
A Life of Impact
The man still had so much ahead of him. We obsess as a culture about celebrities, which often leaves me scratching my head. Though, what cannot be underestimated or unappreciated is the impact they’ve had on so many people’s lives.
Their words, songs, actions, moments in time. We remember where we were when we first heard their album or saw their performance. It’s crazy, but these individuals help us to make sense of our worlds, providing us comfort, driving thoughts and ideas that carry us through some of life’s biggest moments. They’re etched forever in our memories.
I’ve often posted quotes of his on social media, looking to his words and songs for inspiration at times in my life. Times I was down, needing a lift. As I drove to work, I turned on one of Cornell’s best songs: Say Hello 2 Heaven, which was released during his collaboration with members of Pearl Jam, for the band Temple of the Dog.
It’s one of the most powerful songs — both musically and lyrically — these ears have ever heard. Everything that made Cornell great is on full display: a stunning voice able to carry a song from a slow build-up into a booming, rising hard rock scream, with crunchy guitars and thunderous drums.
The Day I Tried to Live
Oftentimes, when people we love — or our heroes, who we maybe never met — die, we seem at a loss for words. It’s troubling just to refer to them in the past tense. How are they gone, so young, so soon? It’s a bit mind-boggling. We don’t know how to make sense of it. All we know is that those people left an indelible mark and impact on our lives. And we’re forever changed.
Forgive me, for one second if you may, for the cliche, but life is so short. Cherish the moments you have with the people you love. Put down your smartphone, stop worrying about the political climate and just savor the moments you have with the great people in your life. Those experiences will be worth more than any you ever have.
The older I get, the more I value each day. I guess that’s how it is with time.
The people we love, admire and model our lives after will all one day leave us. We feel so cheated when they leave us earlier than expected. I write so often about inspiration, building a game plan for personal development and values. Well, these things are cultivated and created by observing and emulating models. They come from our parents, friends, co-workers and heroes.
In his own unique way, for me, they came from Chris Cornell.
Chris Cornell was a songwriting and musical hero. I may never play in a band or be able to string together a few chords on the guitar, but I knew how special his talent was. His music touched me. His lyrics evoked powerful emotions in me — and likely in many of you. He’ll be missed.
As will all of our loved ones who bid goodbye to us, here on this earth. As the boys from Led Zeppelin once wrote, they’re making their climb, “on the stairway to heaven.”
Say hello for me, Mr. Cornell.
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