This morning, I somehow managed to burst wide awake much earlier than I intended — and it was one of those things in which I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go back to sleep; the sun was way too bright, it was way too warm in my apartment and I had to go the bathroom. And before going to take a leak, I absentmindedly unlocked my iPhone and went on Facebook to see a dear friend post a status with an article about Soundgarden‘s Chris Cornell dying from an apparent suicide. My initial response was of stunned disbelief — “Wait, what?,” I said aloud to myself while in my bed. I read the article and I was heartbroken; so heartbroken that some of my early editorial plans have changed slightly.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the years, you’d know that I’m a huge Soundgarden fan. I can remember the first time I heard them — in 1991! — and being absolutely dumbstruck. A band that fucking sounded like that? With a dude, who sounded like that? Music has long been the center of my emotional and intellectual life — as much as books, art and cartoons — and some of my earliest memories and many of my most profound experiences have been tied into music in some fashion. I kid you not, my mom loves to mention how as a toddler, I used to hum Miles Davis‘ “You’re Under Arrest;” in fact, she mentioned it to me on Mother’s Day. As a 12 year old boy, who was painfully shy and bookish, and would watch MTV for 8-10 hours a day and then listen to more music on the radio, I was enthralled — hell, I was seduced.
I caught the band during their highly-anticipated 2011 reunion tour, and I was thrilled to hear them play all of those songs I had played endlessly as a shy teenager. They were impossibly loud, as they should be; and I was reminded once again that Kim Thayil is a guitar god — and if you don’t think so or don’t recognize it, you don’t know shit about music.
As a blogger, I was kid-about-to-open-gifts-at-Christmastime-thrilled to receive press releases from Sub Pop Records (a label that released so many beloved albums of my youth) announcing re-issues of early Sub Pop Soundgarden releases. And eerysingle time I’d receive those emails I’d say to myself “Wait, I can’t write about a band I’ve loved for more than half of my life? Isn’t this one of the reasons why you do this in the first place?”
Personally, that inner 12 year-old self, who fell in love with Soundgarden for the first time is devastated and can barely comprehend it. That wizened 38 year-old self recognizes that people are frail creatures, who suffer; that as Jack Kerouac once wrote “men suffer because they’re built to suffer;” that any one of us can fall into dark, troubled days. But the heartbreak is still there all the same.
So if you have a loved one, contemplating suicide or if you yourself are in need of help, please talk to the good, kind folks at the National Suicide Hotline. You can call 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, any day or you can check out their website https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org. And they’re even on Twitter — @800273TALK.
RIP Chris Cornell.