We all have artists who are foundational to our existence and when Prince died that year I immediately thought of one of my favorite poets, Scott Woods. I knew Prince's work was essential to Scott and reading his stellar essay "Prince & Little Weird Black Boy Gods" (just click that link if you haven't already read it) made me think about how devastated I would be if anything ever happened to Chris Cornell. I wasn't expecting to find out so suddenly soon.
I always resent seeing him grouped together with other contemporaries, because Chris Cornell had no peers. Nobody could do what he did. His voice was extraterrestrial and he knew how to use it across the spectrum to convey each and every emotion worth feeling, while also arranging haunting guitarscapes that perfectly framed dark poetic lyrics. Some of these lines ("like God's eyes in my headlights" for example) have always rattled around in my psyche and continue to influence everything I've created since. When I finally got my first book of poetry published in 2014, it was important for me to give a nod to Chris Cornell, so I included a "found poem" that I assembled from my favorite interview:
There are plenty of fans who were there before I jumped on the bandwagon in 1992 and plenty who went to many more concerts than I attended, so this is just for the record, not for bragging rights: it all started when my friend left the Badmotorfinger CD in my car and the song Slaves & Bulldozers wormed its way into my world. I still treasure getting to see some Soundgarden shows throughout that Badmotorfinger / Superunknown / Down On The Upside stretch as well as some Euphoria Mourning, Audioslave, etc. But Chris Cornell's later solo acoustic shows were staggering. It was pretty much overwhelming to be in the presence of such greatness. His voice somehow regained all the glory of his most powerful moments, but combined with technique and skill that had been honed over the past three decades. Those setlists made use of his entire catalog and exhibited what an incredible stockpile of brilliance he had created.
I was also lucky enough to meet him after shows during the Euphoria Mourning tour in 1999 and his 2007 Carry On tour. Both of those experiences were more than I ever expected and I am forever grateful.
It makes me sad to go back and read my old blog post about that Euphoria Morning show (http://batteredhive.blogspot.com/2015/07/i-am-not-your-autumn-moon-i-am-night.html)
It took me more than a year to post this and maybe I'll post a bit more if I ever figure out what else to say. Just know that I have been listening to those Songbook acoustic recordings nonstop for the past year. The performances and sound quality are impeccable, it's like Chris is still in the room with you and it hurts like a soul breaking but I never want to get to a point where it doesn't still hurt.
To circle this post back around to Prince, this live Chris Cornell cover is gorgeous: