I’m sure many of you have heard the news in the last 24 hours about the sad death of Chris Cornell, singer and frontman for the band Soundgarden. I heard about it before bed last night, and awoke this morning to hear the verdict of the medical examiner which determined the cause of death as suicide. It’s been weighing on my mind ever since, so I thought I’d try writing about it.
While it’s true Cornell released solo albums and sung with Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and with numerous other musicians and bands, it’s his association with Soundgarden that most stands out for me. I imagine I’m not alone in that. Soundgarden has long been one of my favourite bands, I would go so far as to say that it formed the soundtrack of my youth. Those formative teenage years were flavoured by bands like Soundgarden and Nirvana, pretty much anything that came under that term “grunge” (not that I ever used the term grunge back in those days but I find today it sums up the style of music succinctly for my contemporaries). And now, just like Kurt Cobain, another musical talent of my time has taken his own life. Gone at age 52, leaving a wife and children behind, and a legion of fans who’s lives have played out over the decades to his songs. The last time I saw Soundgarden play was 26 February 2015, at Luna Park in Sydney. For those not familiar with Sydney, Luna Park is a amusement park located on the harbour right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was a beautiful summer’s night, in a small and intimate concert hall, and it remains one of the best concerts I’ve been to. I still have the video of Spoonman on my iPhone.
While most of the tributes I’ve seen rolling in on my social media platforms are filled with sadness and fond memories, there’s always those few who feel the need to negatively comment and claim suicide is the “coward’s way out”. While I respect they are entitled to their opinion, I find it a bit judgmental and insensitive, and not even remotely helpful to a discussion of mental health and wellbeing (in light of such, if any readers share that opinion, I’d ask you kindly not to comment on this post). I seem to recall reading somewhere once that Cornell had battled the demons of depression at some point in his past. That is not uncommon for many of us. It is terrible feeling to be filled with such emotional pain and sadness, to feel confused about why and alone in your struggles. But most of all it’s the sense of utter hopelessness. For some, the situation becomes so dire they see no way to continue. I won’t judge them for the choices they make. We are each individuals, we deal with our inner struggles in our own way. Many of us have stood upon that precipice and but for some twist of fate could well have chosen similarly. As for Chris Cornell, may be rest in peace, I imagine we may hear more about what was happening in his life as the days and weeks roll by. But in the meantime, it’s put suicide and mental health back into the limelight. It’s a reminder to take the time to really ask how loved ones are doing. Sometimes all a person needs is the invitation to open up and talk about their troubles. Be empathetic, show compassion and understanding, be supportive and in general … just be there.
I don’t want to end this post on such a sad note. I want to celebrate the life and talent of this wonderful songwriter and musician. He has brought such light and joy, and years of happiness and entertainment to my life and that of many others. I have countless songs I love but what were some of my favourites? Rusty Cage, Outshined, Fell on Black Days and My Wave. The best way we can remember them is to keep the music alive …