Written by Keeyahtay Lewis
I woke up this morning and the first thing I saw when I turned my phone on was a text message saying Chris Cornell had died. I wasn’t even awake yet, but I went on line thinking it had to be a mistake. When I learned that it wasn’t I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I came out and told my wife and I broke down a little. Of all the legends we have lost the last couple of years none of them meant more to me than Chris Cornell did.
I was 13 or 14 when Superunknown came out. I had just moved to New Jersey from a farm a couple years before so I was still mostly listening to country music. My cousin had the album though, and she played it one time when I was at their house. Every time I would come over after that I would borrow the CD from her. Eventually she just gave it to me. There was something about his voice that grabbed everything inside of me and 20+ years later it still has a hold.
I feel like I have been listening to his voice for my whole life. Just last week I was tweeting with strangers about how good Audioslave is and how I wished they’d put out another record. Growing up playing in bands I always wished I could sing like him. But nobody could. There is no one else who could even come close.
The whole day I feel like I have been in a fog. Driving around listening to old songs of his feeling hollow. I was fortunate that I got to photograph him three times. First solo in 2013. Then later with Soundgarden. And just a few months ago with Temple of The Dog. When I first photographed him his people used one of my photos to promote the rest of the tour. I was elated. There was no better frontman than him. No one else that could silence a huge room with just his voice and one guitar. And he could sing the shit out of anything. Michael Jackson. Bob Marley. Zeppelin — it didn’t matter. He could take a song you knew inside and out and make it his. He could make you forget that you had heard it 1000 times before and you would leave with his version in your head.
This grief I feel has been shared across the world. I have spoken to a bunch of friends about how much Cornell meant to all of us. How special his voice was. Truly something that comes along once a generation. Our parents have those guys — Morrison. Mercury. Bowie. THOSE GUYS. We had Chris Cornell.
I know I am rambling here. I used to write a lot more and now I just take pictures. But I need to get this out of me. I hope that at the end of this maybe I will feel a fraction of a percent better. A little while ago it was reveled that he had committed suicide. He played his last show with Soundgarden in Detroit, then he hung himself in his hotel room. I think everyone assumed this would be drug related but learning that it was suicide — well, shit. I feel even worse now. It seems crazy that someone who was so loved could feel like he didn’t have any other options.
Today kind of sucks. I am getting on a plane in a few hours and I am heading to Paris. I am excited about the trip, but this has definitely made me feel a little deflated. It feels strange to be so upset about someone who you don’t really know passing away. But at the same time, it feels perfectly normal. He shared his gift with the world for almost 30 years. I think a lot of us felt like we knew him. And we will always have the music that he left us, but knowing that there won’t be anymore coming- that is hard to swallow.
He is probably my favorite singer. Definitely my favorite modern vocalist. I will continue to blast “Cochise” in the car and try to hit those notes. I will play his acoustic album and wonder how he made “Billie Jean” sound brand new. I will listen to his solo records and wonder how he felt like suicide was the only option.
This one fucked me up. I am going to be feeling this loss for a while. But I know I am not alone in this. Today we lost another person who will never be replaced. I will always wish we had more music, more time. Thank you for the memories.
“But it’s all right
When you’re caught in pain
And you feel the rain come down
It’s all right
When you find you way
Then you see it disappear
It’s all right
Though your garden’s gray
I know all your graces
Someday will flower
In a sweet sunshower”
If you are reading this and you feel like you are having a hard time, remember you are not alone. Make a call: 1-800-273-8255