“Superunknown” | eulogy for Chris Cornell

Before this car I owned just two: an ’84 Thunderbird and a Toyota Celica I got for $500 and abandoned in Philadelphia. The Thunderbird was a gift for college graduation but I wasn’t responsible enough for a car and I knew it; I sold it under-market to a stoner who played Spanish guitar at the open mic I hosted, “Peter Sluk.” And Peter was under the car working on it, when it collapsed on him and he nearly died.

The Celica belonged to the owner of a new age shop next to the cafe I managed in Oakland, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh near Carnegie-Mellon and Pitt. He just wanted out of it. He asked if I could come up with $500 and I did, and though it was held together by bondo in the rear, inside it smelled of leather, and felt tough.

When we left Pittsburgh I drove across the state to Philadelphia and had a cassette of the band Soundgarden’s “Superunknown,” and played that tape for a year or two maybe, and then never again. So when I heard the singer Chris Cornell died last night and they started playing songs from that era it took me right back, as music can.

My friend Mike moved to Seattle before I did, in ’92. He’d mail me letters and music; Soundgarden was emblematic of the Seattle sound. They had this metal quality but seemed undecided if they were that, or punk. And the record stores (same problem with Pearl Jam) didn’t have a place to put them yet, so they got put in with Metallica and Guns n’ Roses, but they weren’t that, at all.

Of all of the rock and pop star deaths in recent years, Chris’s moved me the most. I was in our driveway on a foldout lawn chair when I heard it was confirmed as suicide, and I broke down. Maybe it’s the news of suicide, or that it’s on our psyche now, I don’t know…or perhaps for the first time I connected the dots on what was going on with his voice and the songs he wrote, it made sense in a new way…as really real.

There was an afternoon in West Seattle I was pumping gas at the 76 station on Fauntleroy I could have sworn I saw Chris Cornell there doing the same, in some impeccable late ’60s muscle car. The memory is bad: I see the car as tangerine colored, but maybe that’s the 76 logo that confuses things. He could have just been anyone made to look that way—but there’d be no one who could sound like he did, not ever again.

Now the crows are circling over the driveway because the cat’s got a mouse or vole in her mouth, and it’s become some ‘thing’ with the crows and the cat: it’s unclear if they’re corroborating or in conflict, but the crows are onto the fact our cat is a good hunter, and sloppy about the remains, so they come in as the cleaners. And I wonder what dark comment Chris Cornell would make about that, and his raspy laugh, and wish I could know.

Tonight, in an hour, the Space Needle will go dark from 9 – 10 as a tribute, and maybe there will be some who didn’t know him before who will know him now. Maybe that’s what we all want, on some level, to be known. From what I can tell about Chris, it wasn’t a commercial or fame-thing, but probably something a lot deeper.

 

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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40 Responses to “Superunknown” | eulogy for Chris Cornell

  1. dave ply says:

    The music wasn’t a trigger but the Celica was, I drove one for 17 years. A few memories there.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      I could go on about the Celica. “Japanese muscle car” or something. I really felt nothing when all these other rock greats died. I think the thing about this guy is I identified with him, that’s probably what it is when we lose someone even from a distance, we see a part of ourselves in them going too. There’s so much banter about suicide in the middle schools now, it’s a strange thing. Hard to see that, so sad. OK enough from my rag now! I put on Bobby Blue Bland and poured a rye whiskey. Should probably put on some Chris Cornell, and Soundgarden to bookend the day. Thanks for reading Dave. Glad tidings to you, in Portland. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  2. poshbirdy says:

    He had such a beautiful amazing voice. Terrible to think that someone with such a great gift had nothing more to take

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      He did, and I heard he saw Jeff Buckley as an inspiration because of Jeff’s real quality, to his voice, which now I really hear in Chris’s too. Something to aspire towards, to sound real like that.

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  3. byebyebeer says:

    I appreciate what you said about his suicide weighing on our psyche now. It’s baffling and sad and I hope I never understand it better than that. Also, I almost inherited an 80s Thunderbird from my grandparents but think it died just before I got old enough to drive. I was desperate for a car, but wary of its size and silver color.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ksbeth says:

    i remember him well through both bands – he died an hour after his concert here

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Tough for your city too. My friend Anthony told me they played a Led Zeppelin song “In My Time of Dying” in their encore. That’s strange, but maybe suited his point of view. I think I’ll play it today too.

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  5. Never a Soundgarden guy, but I’m always stunned when something like this happens. I just saw a little clip of an interview he did, where he pretty much said that depression kind of goes with the territory, but I guess we’d like to think it’s under control in artists of this quality. They’ve harnessed it and used it, and in making something beautiful they’ve defeated it, haven’t they?

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Well that’s an interesting take and I get that, on defeating one’s creativity through self-destruction (if I’m reading you right). That’s multi-faced prism that spins and reflects different things, isn’t it? I chewed on this for a few hours this morning on the trail, still processing. I think, from what little I know about him, perhaps he identified with that roommate singer friend of his (Andrew Wood) to the extent that he used him as his muse, and sang and devoted his inspiration to Andrew, to where he tried to become what he thought his friend wanted, and did it for his friend. Half-baked, perhaps. But that guy was deep I think. He had a way to access something primal and heavy. And how can you do that to your voice and carry on? His style alone sounds super destructive, but I’m no singer. I love when he hits those shrill highs, though. Makes my nostril hair kind of curl, in a good way. Bill

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      • I meant that he might have defeated his depression through his art, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case. I wonder why deepness often goes hand in hand with darkness …

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        I figured you might have meant something else, is sometimes hard to tell…hope you had some sun this weekend! Excited to see you’re publishing a new piece, a memoir, yay! — Bill

        Liked by 1 person

  6. may hem says:

    My first car, a 74 dodge dart with no suspension (real low ride), was free. My friend hooked up with some guy with van when we were free planting and ì drove it back to Vancouver for her. She never came back to pick it up. That dart also ate my Superunknown cassette and shared my life by slipping into reverse unexpectedly as some guy ran through the red light on the left. The car in the right lane was totalled.

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  7. Gregg Johnson says:

    Nicely done….thanks

    best, gregg

    gregg s johnson 206 399 3066

    Pardon my brevity; I’m sending from a mobile device.

    >

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  8. Robert Cox says:

    His pysche *hurt*. On YouTube, if you care, find “Audioslave Seven Nation Army Live”. A little bit in, check out his grimace, up close even.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      I do care about that. I tried to find one with a grimace, but the show from Philadelphia, no grimace. Do you recall the location of the show? Would like to see that. I actually had a leak of that White Stripes album back in the day when there were issues with leaks before street dates on records. And I went so far as to use that song as the pre-show music for a theater production I did sound design for. Totally not ASCAP copacetic you dig?

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  9. amcmulin914 says:

    Super bummed out by this. And I hate to be that dude, and it probably comes from my own coping mechanisms, which doesn’t want to accept shitty stuff like this just happens, but got to say the whole thing is super suspect when you think about it. Great dude, plays a bad ass show, then offs himself? History of drug abuse, but then too much Ativan puts him in the cabbage? His age and the fact he had a kid and tons of plans for his future, just doesn’t fit suicide. His wife is out today saying she doesn’t understand it either, and that it would never be “intentional.” In any case, big bummer, so it goes, right? God’s a bastard that has to take all the good ones for himself!

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  10. amcmulin914 says:

    P.S. Sorry God, don’t smite me. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, and all that.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was never a huge fan of his bands, but whenever I did hear that voice on the radio, it was commanding and I had to stop and listen. It is so damn hard to understand suicide. I’ve known too many people by this point in life who have made that choice. It always leaves a void that can rarely be bridged by any kind of acceptance or understanding. I think of Robin Williams and realize that the terrible form of Parkinsons that he suffered from, with it’s bizarre mental illness, is the closest I’ve ever come to understanding the motive behind an act of suicide.

    Thanks for the post Bill, and the music share. Both quite authentic and moving. A nice tribute.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      I’m glad you had a look, sorry it stirs associations like that. His voice was arresting alright. Our local radio station here has done two full days of tribute and think I’m officially done now. I did take a few hours on the trail this morning to process more and think I have one more piece on it and then I’m done too. Exhausting. Bill

      Liked by 2 people

  12. walt walker says:

    Just listened to incredible acoustic version of Like Suicide that I never knew existed until today, then watched a few clips from the last show, including the last one with excerpts from the Zeppelin song. So sad and heartbreaking. Can’t imagine what that family is going through, and the folks who saw that last show. And as you said, I’m connecting the dots between the songs and the voice. Feel sick and demoralized.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      “Take my body home.” Heavy, dark. Thanks for reading and now I’m checking in with Audioslave, finally. Thinking about you as I do and your respect for them.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Hey drop that link in here to that acoustic version if you wouldn’t mind, please.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        Thank you!

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      • walt walker says:

        Last minute or two reminds me of some of Jimmy Page’s acoustic instrumentals.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        Takes on a level of surrealism to where you can’t really say anything about it, better not to. But yes on the Page acoustic instrumentals, Battle of Evermore or something. I lost track, forgot. I actually went down the hole of several of those videos and hadn’t seen like any of them, including “Rooster,” which was a bad place to end. I’m shutting down. But thanks for sharing that, duder.

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  13. Beautifully expressed. Any death is a loss, but there is something about the death of an artist that leaves the world emptier and bereft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      I agree, don’t know why that is. Seems the art/pain thing in retrospect just takes on more weight to it, and not altogether in a negative light either. Thanks for reading Jadi and good to hear from you. Bill

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  14. What a goddamn shame. It wasn’t meant to be ironic, but I played “The Day I Tried to Live” for my students. It’s hard to get them excited, but I love how that song highlights vocals from one of the best rock vocalists of all time.

    Liked by 1 person

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